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East Africa (Food Security)

Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 29 March 2017

The humanitarian crises facing the world in 2017 are unprecedented. The UK is leading the response and stepping up life-saving support across east Africa.

On a recent visit to Kenya and Uganda with the Select Committee on International Development, I met children who had walked up to 10 km just to get to school and 10 km to get back, many of whom were lucky if they had one meal a day. While we were at the school, we discussed associated educational and developmental issues. What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to supporting food programmes aimed at school-age children?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight that, and I am glad that the Select Committee saw the strong work DFID is doing, in partnership, on education in both Kenya and Uganda. We of course provide a range of support, and in our education support and our programme work we look at all aspects of water, food and provision of healthcare, and at how we can support vulnerable households.

I pay tribute to the many people across Cardiff, including local football teams, who have been raising funds for drought-affected areas, in Somaliland in particular. I have heard worrying concerns from the Government of Somaliland and others that some of the aid pledged to the region is not getting through. Will the Secretary of State investigate this and do what she can to provide support?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. We must always challenge the system, but also challenge Governments and authorities. As he will know, there are issues in Somaliland specifically, because it is very challenging and difficult terrain. I will always press, be vocal about and call out those who are preventing aid access, so I will absolutely look into the point he has made.

Yesterday, I met the Ethiopian ambassador, who made the point that money is needed desperately, but at the same time let us not stereotype east Africa. It is a place of prosperity, where Louis Vuitton handbags and some of the finest gloves are made, as well as a place that requires help in the north.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I saw that for myself when I went to Ethiopia; I went to one of the industrial parks. I think—this comes back to the point about economic development—that Ethiopia is now a great success story in moving from famine and poverty to prosperity and the development agenda. In effect, we want to see more of that.

10. Is the Secretary of State aware of reports that the South Sudanese Government are planning to raise the cost of work permits for foreign nationals from $100 to $10,000? What steps can the Department take to ensure access for aid workers, and what success is it having in achieving that? (909550)

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. He will not be surprised to hear me say that we have been calling the South Sudanese Government out on that. Their behaviour and conduct in putting up their fees and blocking aid access have been absolutely appalling. We will continue to apply all pressure we can to make sure we tackle these issues directly.

I am sure the Secretary of State will commend Comic Relief for raising £73 million this year, but is she as concerned as I am that it showed a baby dying at 8.30 pm, before the watershed, and another baby dying at 9.10 pm, meaning that the overall portrayal of Africa is very narrow? It needs to review the formula, because this is affecting primary school children’s understanding of a very complicated continent with 52 countries.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the great work of Comic Relief and how it raises so much money for all the domestic and international causes. I did not see the footage to which he refers, but as we have touched on already in these exchanges, Africa has a bright future—there is no doubt about that—in terms of its population, economic development and prosperity, and we must focus on those things.

We join in passing on birthday wishes to the Secretary of State. Will she explain how DFID is helping local partners to deliver humanitarian aid in response to the east African crisis, and how is that helping the Department to make progress towards the target, agreed at last year’s world humanitarian summit, that 25% of humanitarian aid should be delivered through local partners by 2020?

The hon. Gentleman asks a very important question. Following the world humanitarian summit, we have been leading the charge—working with others in the system, including the head of the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien—on how to get better efficiencies and improve ways of working, which are crucial. The east African crisis has shown how we can deliver aid more effectively through our partnership working, but also how we can reform our ways of working, which we need to improve continually.