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Food Insecurity: Eastern and Southern Africa

Volume 612: debated on Wednesday 29 June 2016

DFID has provided an additional £200 million since mid-2015 to respond to the impact of El Niño-related climate shocks in Africa. More than 4 million people have already been supported by DFID programmes in the horn of Africa and southern Africa.

The drought in Africa is affecting millions of people and is predicted to continue until November and possibly beyond. If the rains do come, there will be a hunger gap for families across the region while they wait to see whether there is anything to harvest in the next three to five months, so what steps are the Government taking now to make sure that food and other essentials are ready to be delivered then if it becomes necessary?

I thank the hon. Lady for throwing a spotlight on a humanitarian crisis that is under-reported and underfunded. I am proud to say that the UK has shown genuine leadership in making large amounts of funding available early—as I said, £200 million in the past year alone—and we are reviewing what more needs to be done, but critically we are also picking up the phone and speaking to all the other donors in the international community to encourage them to do more, as well as working very closely with domestic Governments such as Ethiopia’s to make sure that they have the right plans in place to protect their people.

I congratulate DFID on the support that it is giving, particularly to Ethiopia. On a recent visit to that country, I learned of the work that is being carried out and also of the funding gap in the support programme. I also learned that there is a need for donors to be there on a long-term basis because the problems are not going to go away. Will the Minister redouble his efforts to bring in more donor countries and make sure that they are there for the medium to long term?

Yes, I can reassure my hon. Friend of that, and I thank him for his letter after his visit. We are making those calls and encouraging other donors. I should place on record our respect and recognition for the work that the Ethiopian Government have done in making domestic resources—$700 million—available to be part of this response.

In many instances charitable institutions are doing great work in trying to provide clean, plentiful water supplies in sub-Saharan Africa, which allows those nation states to produce food on a much greater scale. What is being done to supplement those efforts and help those institutions provide that much needed water supply?

DFID is extremely proud of its co-operation and partnership with NGOs in many areas. In the context of making sure that people have access to clean water and sanitation, we have a manifesto commitment to support 60 million people achieve that, so partnership working is fundamental to our approach. A large amount of that £200 million funding has been to help people access the most basic services.

I am pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge that climate change is having a huge impact on food security in the region. What efforts is his Department making to look at the impact on fish stocks, which very many people in that region depend on?

The hon. Lady is entirely right that we have to factor in climate change, not least because on our assessment there is a 75% probability of La Niña following El Niño. A large part of the work that we are doing involves doing the best we can to help people now, as well as to plan for the future and build in greater resilience so that those countries and those populations are better protected in the future.

May I associate those on the SNP Benches with the good wishes and congratulations that have been extended to the Secretary of State in recent days, and also welcome the new Labour spokesperson to her post?

Will the Minister recognise the role of faith and civil society organisations in developing countries in the delivery of food and emergency aid? Given the need for forward planning mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), what steps is he taking to make sure that DFID can support such organisations in responding to the food crisis?

The key thing is to act early and to act decisively. The British Government have made a lot of money available and have acted early, which is critical to being cost-effective. Fundamental to our approach is working through other organisations. That includes the best NGOs, which are passionate about trying to provide basic services and keep people alive.