Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate on this issue due to prior Parliamentary commitments. However, please be assured that I will look at any briefing provided carefully.
I can also assure you that I share the UK’s longstanding commitment to East Africa; and that I am following all developments, including the ongoing efforts of Ministers and British officials towards the above end, very closely.
Sadly, devastating drought in the Horn of Africa and wider region is causing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with more than 68 million people facing high levels of food insecurity, and Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia all at risk of famine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is exacerbating pre-existing humanitarian crises by driving up the cost of food, fuel, fertiliser, and humanitarian supplies, and diverting already constrained humanitarian resources from pre-existing crises. That is why I welcome that the UK allocated £156 million in humanitarian support for crises across East Africa for the 2022/23 financial year (50 per cent of which had been distributed as of 13 October 2022).
Part of the £156 million funding commitment includes a new £14 million package that will help to protect women and children in Ethiopia from the devastating impacts of violent conflict and the worst drought in 40 years. You may also be interested to know that this funding is expected to reach up to 150,000 people with comprehensive health, water sanitation, hygiene and nutrition services; 50,000 people with emergency financial support; and 20,000 pupils with emergency education.
In addition, from the £156 million commitment, HM Government (HMG) has recently allocated £5 million to its bilateral response to acute food security in Somalia, which has already been reaching almost half a million of the most vulnerable people across the country. I also understand that the UK's funding to Somalia has helped 4.4 million people receive water, sanitation, and hygiene support since 2018, and 3.2 million receive emergency food. Meanwhile, in Sudan, HMG has provided a further £3 million to the World Food Programme, who will be helping to provide 120,000 vulnerable people with lifesaving food assistance.
I also welcome HMG's work, alongside allies, to mobilise international support for global food insecurity and famine risks at the Annual Meetings of the UN General Assembly, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and the forthcoming G20 Summit. This builds on earlier action, such as when the UK helped to bring states together at the UN Horn of Africa drought roundtable in April, which mobilised roughly $400 million in new commitments. In addition to this commendable work, a comprehensive plan to address food insecurity must also include preventative measures too. In this regard, I am encouraged that HMG is expanding disaster risk finance and insurance cover to help protect against future drought in African countries.
The UK is committed to transforming how we tackle crises. We will continue to use our diplomatic capabilities to push the international system to act ahead of shocks and famine, draw on innovative finance and insurance mechanisms, and harness our expertise to better manage and anticipate humanitarian emergencies.