Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – in the House of Commons on 14th March 2023.
What recent discussions he has had with international partners on the hunger crisis in east Africa.
What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the hunger crisis in east Africa.
East Africa currently represents the world’s largest and most severe humanitarian crisis. We have allocated £156 million in life-saving aid across the region this financial year.
Oxfam estimates that one person is likely to die every 36 seconds in east Africa owing to food insecurity, but the “Integrated Review Refresh”, published yesterday, failed to acknowledge this unfolding crisis. Drought and famine have displaced nearly 2 million people in Ethiopia and Somalia recently. What further action can the Government take to support people on the ground and ensure that they can return home safely?
I am sure that when the hon. Gentleman has time to study yesterday’s “Integrated Review Refresh” in detail, he will see that it contains much to be welcomed in respect of the future of Britain’s international development leadership. However, he is right to talk about the intense humanitarian needs that exist in the area that he has mentioned. In Ethiopia we are helping to deliver humanitarian support to 8 million people, alongside efforts to promote water conservation. In Sudan, £320,000 vulnerable people are receiving food support thanks to British assistance. In South Sudan, 200,000 are receiving emergency food and nutrition, and in Somalia—which I visited in December—4.4 million people have received water, sanitation and hygiene support from Britain since 2018, and 3.2 million have received emergency food. The hon. Gentleman can therefore rest assured that we are absolutely on the case, and are doing everything we can to support the international effort to counter what may well be the fifth year of drought.
The £156 million of aid to which the Minister referred is five times less than the amount provided by the UK Government six years ago to deal with a milder crisis. In a week when we are talking about displaced people, we are facing an exodus of biblical proportions in east Africa. What more can the Government do to help those communities to stay in their homes?
The hon. Gentleman is right, in that the aims of British development policy are to help people to remain in their own homes and be safe and secure and, indeed, prosperous. What we are seeing in the horn of Africa is an immense crisis of extraordinary proportions to which the whole international community must respond, not only with money but with skill and expertise, and British leadership is at the forefront of that.
There is much talk about the deaths on the battlefield in Ukraine, but what assessment has the Department made of the impact of grain prices caused by grain not going into east Africa from Ukraine? It is quite possible—and I should be interested in testing this assertion—that more people have died in east Africa as a result of the war in Ukraine than have died within the confines of that country.
I cannot comment on the hon. Gentleman’s last point, but he is right to suggest that, as a result of Putin’s illegal brutality and invasion of Ukraine, there have been disruptions to food supplies in the Sahel in particular, but also in east Africa. Those disruptions are causing rising inflation and food shortages, and Putin stands condemned for the effect of his actions in that respect as well as every other.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting Kenya and meeting students who described to me graphically the impact that drought caused by climate change is having on their lives and on their food supply. That is due to failed crops and boreholes that are drying up, but it is also having an impact on their education. What more does my right hon. Friend think can be done not just to address the current crisis, but to introduce mitigation measures in the longer term so that climate change does not have such a drastic impact on those communities?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We discuss resilience and climate adaptation frequently with the Kenyan Government. I was there in December. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was also there and he spoke to President Ruto. My hon. Friend may rest assured that our relationship with Kenya, which is extremely close, deals not only with humanitarian, trade and investment issues but with drought and the other issues she has raised.
Across east Africa, 48 million people are facing crisis levels of hunger, yet east Africa has been taken out of the integrated review. Even the Minister’s own colleagues understand that the fundamental issues in east Africa are climate adaptation and real partnership. What are the Government going to do to address the fundamental causes of this cycle of crises?
The hon. Lady is wrong about it being taken out of the IR, and if she has the chance this weekend to study it in detail, she will see that that is the case, but she is right to say that an estimated 72 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2023 due to conflict, drought and flooding. On all those issues, Britain is working with its allies across the international community to do everything we can to stop it, recognising that this is the fifth consecutive season of failed rains across the horn of Africa.