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Somalia (Food Security)

Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 29 March 2017

The UK is at the forefront of international efforts to avert a famine in Somalia. Our additional £110 million of aid will provide food, water and emergency services for more than 1 million people. I think all Members of this House will recognise that we are witnessing Somalia experience an absolutely devastating famine right now, but UK aid is making an enormous difference.

I thank the Secretary of State very much for her comments. Up to 3 million people are at risk of starvation in Somalia. It is important not only to get the food in, but to make sure it goes to the people who really need it. I would just like to press her a little bit more on how we can physically get the food to those who most need it.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. First and foremost, I would like to commend all the partners and agencies working in Somalia in quite terrible, difficult and harrowing conditions. We work with a range of trusted and experienced partners in a country that is very difficult; there is no doubt about that. I have met many of them, as have my DFID teams and officials in country. Our priority, as I have said, is to get emergency food and water to the people who need it, and we are working with a range of agencies to do exactly that.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, the rest of east Africa and Yemen is truly appalling. I welcome what the Secretary of State has said about the UK donation, but what are we doing to ensure that other wealthy countries rise to the challenge as well?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that remark. He will know that thanks to the generosity of UK taxpayers, the east Africa Disasters Emergency Committee appeal has reached £40 million. UK aid has contributed to that, and rightly so, through our match funding. Others need to do more; I have been unequivocal about the fact that I think that other countries need to pull their finger out. We have led the way in terms of lobbying and making calls. All Ministers across DFID and across Government, including Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers, have been doing exactly that—pressing the wealthier countries to contribute more to tackling these famines and to step up their own responses.

May I ask the Secretary of State what work her Department is doing with the international community to help to ensure that it is better able to provide a more urgent early response to food crises, to avoid mass loss of life?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise that point. What we are seeing is totally unprecedented. To witness the prospect of four famines in 2017 is simply horrific for all of us. There is more that can be done, and the UK is working with others to try to build greater capacity and resilience in those countries so that we do not reach crisis points, as we have done this year, where international appeals have to come together and plead with people to give money. The long-term strategy has to be to build greater resilience. That has worked in countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya in the past.

On 21 March, the United Nations agricultural agency further scaled up its activities in drought-ridden regions in Somalia. I thank the agency for the $22 million that was loaned, but I have had concerned constituents asking who will be paying back that loan. Will it be the United Nations or will it be the Somalians?

The hon. Lady raises an important point about funding and resourcing for such crisis appeals. As I have said, the UK has stepped up and led the way. On my visit to Somalia six weeks ago, we managed to convene more funds—yes, from the UK, but we are getting others to do likewise. We cannot continue to put the debt burden on countries that are struggling, or on a Government who are so new that we have to continue to support them. Of course, we have the Somalia conference coming up very soon.