Sahel/Northern Nigeria

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th November 2016.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford 12:00 am, 16th November 2016

What recent assessment her Department has made of the humanitarian situation in the Sahel and northern Nigeria.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for International Development

This year we have significantly increased our support, providing a further £80 million of humanitarian aid to support more than 9 million people affected across the region. I can assure my hon. Friend that we are working to tackle poverty and the crisis in the region at source, rather than waiting for the consequences to reach us domestically.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

There are more than 2.6 million displaced people in the area, 6.4 million people are facing food insecurity, and a public health emergency has been declared in four countries, together with the Central African Republic, in response to a polio outbreak, yet United Nations appeals are only one third funded or less. What more can the UK Government do to bring this crisis to the world’s attention?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for International Development

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to an appalling situation facing the region, and more must be done to meet the humanitarian needs. The UN needs that help to increase its capacity and develop. As to what more can be done, we encourage Governments across the world in the donor community to step up their contributions, just as we have, because the humanitarian response required must be funded now. With my hon. Friend and with the UK Government, we are challenging everyone to step up and do more.

Photo of Kate Osamor Kate Osamor Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I welcome the Government’s additional £80 million committed at the UN General Assembly for the humanitarian crisis. This goes some way towards addressing the imbalance between development assistance and humanitarian aid. However, relief agencies are unable to reach up to 2 million people in north-east Nigeria. Can the Minister provide an update on how her Department is leading an effective, strong UN-led response while also ensuring that DFID funding goes to a range of actors, including by channelling more funding bilaterally through non-Government organisations?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for International Development

I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue. She is right. In addition to addressing the emergency humanitarian needs, DFID is investing in partnership working—yes, at a bilateral level, but also through the multilateral organisations that we are working with. Long-term resilience, support and capacity building are required. Our humanitarian programme is laying the foundations for these long-term outcomes through, for example, social transfers and access to health services, and importantly, focusing on the right interventions that can both help in the long term and provide the emergency relief required now.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The UK has excellent links through the Anglican Communion to the Churches in Nigeria. Would the Secretary of State welcome the willingness of the Churches to help with the humanitarian situation to address some of the underlying causes, particularly corruption?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for International Development

My right hon. Friend is right about the power and the support of the Anglican community and Churches in Nigeria in particular. We have to work with grassroots organisations and religious organisations as well. We welcome the support and the focus on capacity building in particular, and the awareness-raising that is required on many of these challenging issues.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

Aid without security in northern Nigeria is meaningless. I welcome the deployment of British troops to support the Nigerians in the north-east. Will the Secretary of State review official development assistance rules to make sure that that type of deployment is ODA-eligible for the people of northern Nigeria?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for International Development

My hon. Friend will be clear about ODA rules from his previous role in the Foreign Office. He highlights the importance of a united and strategic approach, which can be seen in the UK’s work to support the Nigerian Government in their overall undertaking. The cross-Government work that is taking place is the right approach to tackle the severe issues that Nigeria is trying to cope with.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

Looking at the immunisation of children in northern Nigeria, it appears that the coverage is very thin. In the past, some of the figures for coverage have been shown to be completely false. Can the Department work with the Government of Nigeria to ensure that there is total transparency, and work more with NGOs to ensure that more children are immunised throughout northern Nigeria?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for International Development

My hon. Friend is right about the importance of immunising children. I recognise the outstanding work that the agencies undertake in very difficult conditions as they try to reach communities to immunise children. More data and more transparency are needed, and we are driving much of that data transparency requirement through the support that we provide to organisations on the ground delivering those vital immunisations.