David Alton pressed the British Government to rush medical aid and emergency facilities to refugee camps for thousands of sufferers and survivors of the catastrophic flood in Mozambique in 2000.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate. We cannot under-estimate the seriousness of the current situation and its long-term impact on the development of Mozambique. I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we are doing everything that we can to support the Government of Mozambique through this crisis and to work with other donors to ensure that we target resources in the most effective way. We have a growing aid programme with Mozambique to ensure that we contribute to the long-term development of the country once it emerges from the current situation. I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we shall collaborate with the aid agencies. A key part of the role of the Department for International Development is to work in partnership. We are aware that we cannot work in isolation. We seek long-term sustainable development in Mozambique and need to draw in all the stakeholders so that we work towards the same goal.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, at lunch time the South Africans said that they could not give very much more help because they were themselves threatened by flooding. Obviously, the shortage lies in helicopter pilots. There was a report on the wireless that the helicopter pilots were exhausted and could not fly any more. What can we do about either moving Air Force or Army helicopter pilots to that area or even hiring local civilian helicopters? I am sure that that would be the most immediately helpful action that could be taken.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the shortage lies not only in helicopter pilots but in helicopters with appropriate equipment. At the moment 10 helicopters are operating in Mozambique and a further four are expected. However, only three of them have winches. We are doing all that we can, even if we have to make commercial arrangements, to get the right kind of helicopters into Mozambique. As I said in answer to an earlier question, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development is
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engaged in ongoing discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence on the best way in which our Armed Forces can assist the effort.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement made in another place. Does my noble friend accept that, while what she says is a welcome initial Statement, ultimately this country and the rest of the world will be judged by the enthusiasm with which we mobilise resources not only for humanitarian relief but also for the redevelopment of the development projects that have now been rendered null and void? Does my noble friend agree that, unless we are seen to do that with at least the same enthusiasm with which we muster resources for military purposes, we shall be viewed by many in the world to have failed?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that it is important to mobilise resources for the long-term redevelopment of Mozambique. We have a growing development programme in Mozambique, elements of which will go into redevelopment, but it is also important to note that Mozambique received a debt reduction of 1.7 billion dollars in July 1999 under the original HIPC initiative. Therefore, the Government of Mozambique can themselves download resources for long-term redevelopment. The revision of HIPC agreed in September 1999 provides deeper debt relief for qualifying countries, and therefore Mozambique is eligible for another reduction in its external debt. Once the immediate crisis is over, we must do all that we can to ensure that, in addition to the Government of Mozambique and the British Government, other donor countries pull together to ensure that Mozambique has sufficient resources to enable it to move forward in the long term.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I welcome the Government’s intention to provide an additional half a million pounds towards the immediate situation in Mozambique. I welcome, too, the Minister’s remarks about the remission of debt charges. Nevertheless, I am sure that the sight of many victims clinging to wreckage, trees and buildings will be on the minds of everyone in this House.
Has the Minister seen the speculation that the Mozambique Government may not be able to afford to pay for the continued assistance of helicopters from Malawi? Will the noble Baroness ensure that that does not become an issue? Will she do all she can to ensure that more helicopters and boats are made available in Mozambique as a matter of urgency?
Does the Minister agree with the statement of her honourable friend, Mrs Ann Clwyd, on her return from Mozambique that the situation underlines the need for a rapid deployment force which can be put into operation as soon as such a disaster occurs?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we are doing all we can to get helicopters and boats into Mozambique. I assure the noble Lord that money is not the problem at this
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point in time. The real problem is the lack of capacity on the ground in Mozambique to mobilise the resources which are available as efficiently and effectively as possible. The other major concern is that the Zambezi area to the north of the central area–it is not currently flooded–has the potential to be flooded within the next week or so given that another storm has been predicted. We are doing all we can to mobilise resources to ensure that in that event–we all hope that it will not occur–additional helicopters and boats are available. The population in that area is something like 3 million.We have been working with other international agencies to ensure that there is better co-ordination when such crises occur. The question of a rapid deployment force has been, and continues to be, discussed. If the relevant organisations consider that such a force is the best way forward, I am sure that we shall take the necessary steps.
Lord Elton: My Lords, at this stage any comment must start with a cry of sorrow that so much that was hopeful has been swept away so soon and with expression of sympathy for the whole country.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, may have heard something in the Minister’s answer about rescheduling of debt relief which I did not hear. My noble friend on the Front Bench asked whether debt payments of 1.4 million dollars per week were being paid by the Mozambiquan Government. If ever there were a case for suspending payment, this is it. This is a good occasion on which to consider our policy of debt management towards the least fortunate countries in the world.
My other question is entirely separate. What is the estimate of malaria incidents which may follow in the wake of these floods? What steps are being taken to prepare for them? What contribution are we making to those steps?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, as regards debt relief, perhaps I should repeat the figures I gave earlier. Mozambique received a debt reduction of 1.7 billion dollars in July 1999. A second phase of debt relief is being discussed currently. A decision point is expected in March at meetings of the international financial institutions.
The Department for International Development cancelled all Mozambique’s aid debts in 1983. They were worth some £21.8 million. We are doing all we can to put pressure on other countries to do what we have done where there is bilateral debt.
There is difficulty in getting data about what is happening. We have a small office in Maputo from which we receive information all the time. However, it has made clear that the information is patchy given the difficulties of the infrastructure. All the aid agencies are seeking to share data. I am unable to answer the specific question about projections of the incidence of
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malaria. Health is one of the areas on which we have given, and continue to give, support. If I receive further information, I shall write to the noble Lord.
Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the greatest test–my noble friend Lord Tomlinson and others referred to it–will be the renewed commitment to the reconstruction of Mozambique after this terrible disaster? When there is much talk about the restructuring of military forces on a European basis so that they can move more effectively to military situations where there is demand, does my noble friend agree that we need to consider the closest possible collaboration between development ministries and the military so that equipment can be moved as rapidly as necessary in situations such as that in Mozambique?
Does the Minister agree that we should send our warmest congratulations and good will to the heroic pilots from South Africa? They have been doing fantastic work over the past few days.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the United Kingdom has taken a lead in the matter of collaboration between development ministries and the military. The Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence have been working together in considering areas upon which we can take greater action. However, the issue is not limited to the United Kingdom Government. We have to do all we can to ensure that our broad-based approach is replicated in other countries throughout the world.
I agree with my noble friend. We should thank the pilots from South Africa and Malawi who have worked so heroically to rescue those in peril.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I welcome the British Government’s efforts in this tragic situation. It is important that the Commonwealth is seen to rally round and help in any way possible. However, can the Minister tell us what the European Union plans to do in particular as regards its overseas development role and the special relationship with ACP countries?
As the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill Bill...