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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:37 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Claire Curtis-Thomas Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour, Crosby 6:37 pm, 30th March 2009

Although it would be good to talk about Africa as a whole, I will limit my remarks to a country that I know well, which is Sierra Leone. I have probably been to Sierra Leone at least 12 times in the past four years and I think that I know it reasonably well. I want to talk about the Government's performance in relation to Sierra Leone, to share some of my concerns about how development funding is being delivered and to offer some suggestions about how it might be improved.

I would like first to bring the House up to speed on where Sierra Leone is with respect to public service agreement 29, which relates to the eight millennium development goals. There are insufficient data in Sierra Leone for us to make any judgments about where we stand on the first goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. We have achieved the agreed target on the second millennium development goal, which is to achieve universal primary education, both in terms of primary education and net enrolment in primary education. I will talk about that a little later, because in that case the statistics are extremely deceptive.

The third millennium development goal is to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. We are seriously off track in that respect, although we look as though we are on track in terms of the ratio of girls to boys in primary education. The fourth millennium development goal is the reduction of child mortality and the under-five mortality rate. We are seriously off track on that and have made no progress. The fifth millennium development goal is to improve maternal health and the maternal mortality ratio. Once again, we are seriously off track. Indeed, Sierra Leone is still at the bottom of the world index of child and maternal mortality.

We have made progress in combating HIV/AIDS, and we have made progress on combating the prevalence of HIV among 15 to 49-year-olds—half the population of Sierra Leone is in that age range—but we will still not achieve that sixth millennium development goal. Finally, we have not delivered the seventh goal of ensuring environmental stability, and we will not do so. We have also failed to increase the proportion of the population with sustainable access to an improved source of water.

I shall provide further illustration of my narrative by giving the House some statistics. The amount of expenditure that has been given to Sierra Leone has now risen to £50 million. To put that into context, we are the biggest aid donors in Sierra Leone. It has a population of 6 million people, and we give it £50 million. Its gross domestic product is $347 million, which probably equates to about £280 million. Of the £50 million, the amount that we have given to the Sierra Leone Government in hard cash is about £13.2 million. The remaining £37 million is made up of technical assistance, humanitarian assistance, debt relief and other DFID bilateral aid from other official UK sources.

This brings me to the imputed share of the UK's donation. I have come to know the term "imputed share" very well. It is important to me, and I have asked a series of parliamentary questions to find out what our money has been spent on. I am sure that we would all like to know that. Some of the hon. fellows who have sat on the Front Bench this afternoon—although not the hon. fellow who is there now—have been the recipients of my many written parliamentary questions on this subject. Indeed, I tend to ask rather long, detailed parliamentary questions—

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