UK spends £22 million on humanitarian assistance in Pakistan

June 26, 2009 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

by Yepoka Yeebo

Ministers outlined aid efforts to civilians displaced by actions against the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday.

In the session on international development, ministers answered questions about the closure of a DFID programme in Ukraine, the development agenda and Fairtrade initiatives.

“My Department has made available £22 million for humanitarian assistance in Pakistan, which is helping those displaced by conflict in the federally administered tribal areas as well as those displaced in North West Frontier province,” Michael Foster, under-secretary for international development, told the House.

“We recognise that there is a powerful connection between the interests of the people of Afghanistan and those of the people of Pakistan.

“It was made clear that we are taking a joined-up approach in what is colloquially called the “AfPak” strategy, because there is a strong strategic interest in having a stable and secure state on both sides of the border.

“It is of course necessary for the forces of extremism that threaten Afghanistan and Pakistan to be tackled not solely by military means. That is why, along with the development partnership agreement that we have for Pakistan, there has been a significant rebalancing of our programme in recent months towards the needs of education, in particular, in Pakistan.”

Sandra Osborne said the international community has been urging Pakistan to act against the Taliban in the north west territories: “Millions of people have paid the price with death, destruction and internal displacement. Given the number of people living with host communities, what support can DFID provide in the circumstances?

Mr Foster said DFID had helped set up 34 aid stations in the area: “To be honest, we have no real assessment of the number of people who have been displaced and are still beyond the front line. Our difficulty is enabling safe access to those areas for our aid workers.”

Conservative MP Alistair Burt asked if the minister would do anything to help charities working Swat Valley: “A group of international aid agencies reckons it has a deficit of about £22.5 million in dealing with the humanitarian consequences of conflict. World Vision [alone] reports a deficit of about £7.5 million.”

In response, Mr Foster said The UK’s bilateral £22 million contribution was the second largest made by any nation.

Douglas Alexander, secretary for international development also said he was not in a position to comment on allegations uncovered by the BBC about the abuse of detainees at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

Gareth Thomas, minister for DFID, said despite the end of the programme in Ukraine, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was still working in the country: “We continue to make the case for further involvement from donors to Ukraine. Substantial donor programmes are available through international financial institutions, and we are closely involved in the decisions that they take.

“Given our need to focus on the poorest countries, I believe that that is the right way forward.”

Mr Thomas said DFID had committed just over £3million to Fairtrade initiatives, and commended Letchworth Garden City for achieving Fairtrade status.

Labour MP Jim Sheridan raised the issue of the Israeli blockade of Gaza: “[It] is causing extreme problems for people in Gaza. Cement supplies have been held up in the blockade, but how can people reconstruct and build their houses if they cannot get those materials?”

Mr Foster replied: “The United Nations believes that only 25 types of relief out of the some 4,000 that are needed in Gaza are actually getting through the crossings, and construction materials are essential if we are to rebuild Gaza city.”

photo: Foreign


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