Developing Countries: Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare

– in the House of Lords at 2:44 pm on 17th April 2002.

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Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 2:44 pm, 17th April 2002

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they are supporting sexual and reproductive healthcare in developing countries.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, sexual and reproductive healthcare in developing countries continues to be a key priority for the Department for International Development. Achieving universal access to reproductive health for all by 2015 underpins our approach. Good reproductive health is of course also vital to achieving millennium development goals related to lowering maternal mortality and combating HIV/AIDS. DfID's total bilateral expenditure on sexual and reproductive health activities, including HIV/AIDS, has risen from £38 million in the financial year 1997-98 to over £206 million in 2001-02.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging Answer. Does she agree that educational programmes for girls and women are often successful in improving sexual and reproductive health? Can she tell the House what her department is doing to enable such programmes?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend. Educational programmes are vital for girls and women because they are an essential vehicle for the promotion of gender equality, which lies at the heart of trying to ensure safe sexual and reproductive healthcare practices. The Department for International Development is working with respect to education in three areas. First, it is working on addressing the gender inequities in basic education. Noble Lords will know that we are committed to the millennium development goal of achieving gender equity in primary education by 2005. The second area is the development of skills-based health education. For example, in Kenya we are supporting the Primary School Action for Better Health programme. Thirdly, I refer to the area of adult education, in particular the work that we are undertaking in literacy for livelihoods.

Photo of Lord Glenarthur Lord Glenarthur Conservative

My Lords, the noble Baroness has said that this subject is a key element of DfID's responsibilities. Can she enumerate briefly what are the other comparable elements of DfID's responsibilities to which she has referred?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, noble Lords will know that since 1997 our policy, enshrined in the White Paper, is to work towards the eradication of world poverty. In that respect, we are committed to the Millennium Development Goals which include the halving of poverty by 2015, gender equity in education, and elements of health and education which relate to sexual and reproductive health, as well as to maternal mortality.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister think that sufficient information about sexual diseases, including HIV, is provided to Britons visiting developing countries? The problems of HIV are very serious. Furthermore, is she aware that not enough health education is provided to the general public here in Britain?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, the noble Baroness's question goes slightly wide of the Question, but I shall endeavour to respond to it. Obviously, public awareness with regard to HIV/AIDS is very important indeed, not only domestically but also with regard to those travelling abroad. We have sought to make information available through our travel advice. For example, there is a "Know Before You Go" campaign on the FCO website which seeks to ensure that British travellers understand the key facts that they need to know about the countries to which they are travelling. However, I agree with the noble Baroness that raising public awareness remains a key concern.

Photo of Lord Shutt of Greetland Lord Shutt of Greetland Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister agree that what might be helpful in speeding up this cause would be for Mr Derek Wanless to be hired to prepare a report? The report could then be considered by the UN Conference on Population and Development to be held at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. A good firm copy of that report should then be sent to the Government of the United States of America.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg at the end of July this year will form a key part of this process. If we are talking about sustainable development and if we are talking about poverty elimination, then we must also talk about health-related issues, including the severe impact of HIV/AIDS, focusing on the negative impact that it is having on countries, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, which I fear will not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals. This issue remains important in terms of the international agenda.

Photo of Baroness Gould of Potternewton Baroness Gould of Potternewton Labour

My Lords, following on from the supplementary question of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, what steps are the department taking in terms of both healthcare and education to help those people who are most at risk of sexually transmitted diseases, such as prostitutes?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, we are working in three areas in this respect. We are targeting interventions to high-risk behaviour groups, including commercial sex workers; we are looking to combat sexual tourism and the wider issues related to that; and we are very concerned about the growing practice of human trafficking, including that for sexual exploitation. Those are the three areas where we are looking to help girls and young women, who are particularly vulnerable.

Photo of Baroness Sharples Baroness Sharples Conservative

My Lords, what is being done to prevent female circumcision?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, again, this subject is wide of the specific Question. The noble Baroness will know that we are working in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, she will also know that work is being carried out in the United Kingdom. My noble friend Lady Rendell, in particular, has asked a number of Questions in the House on that issue.