Famine (Sub-Saharan Africa)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:10 pm on 30th January 1991.

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Photo of Mr Mike Watson Mr Mike Watson , Glasgow Central 8:10 pm, 30th January 1991

We are considering a problem of grave proportions, as both my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and the Minister recognised. I look forward to the Minister's response and he will have to be moreforthcoming and revealing than he was in his opening remarks which sorely disappointed Opposition Members.

Since last October, when there were warnings of widespread food shortages, the Government have, prior to today's announcement, come up with just under £20 million, most of which has gone to Ethiopia. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley said, that totally underestimates the scale of the problem and works out at about £1 for each person facing starvation.

During the crisis in Africa in 1984–85, which received so much publicity and to which the people of Britain and the rest of the world responded so well, the Government provided aid of £36 million at today's prices. In that famine 1 million people perished. It is suggested that as many as 27 million might perish in the present famine. However, the Government have made available not much more than half the funds—at 1984–85 prices—that they made available during the last famine. That simply is not enough.