HC Deb 03 March 2004 vol 418 cc882-4
3. Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley) (Lab)

Whether reproductive health supplies security is a key requirement for the attainment of the millennium development goals. [157873]

The Secretary of State for International Development(Hilary Benn)

The millennium development goals will not be achieved without further progress on reproductive health and rights. An essential part of that is ensuring that women and men, including young people, have access both to condoms, contraceptives, medicines and other products, and to the services, information and education that they need to protect their reproductive and sexual health. DFID's bilateral programmes focus on strengthening the capacity of health systems to deliver those services and supplies effectively, and we also support organisations such as the United Nations Population Fund and the global fund.

Chris McCafferty

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, but can he tell the House what role the Government intend to play in bringing to the attention of the international community the very serious issue of reproductive health supplies security; and what are they going to do to encourage recipient countries to prioritise the same issue?

Hilary Benn

First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her work on issues of reproductive health, in which she has taken a great interest for a very long time. I share her concern about the availability of reproductive health commodities. One thing that we are doing is to take every opportunity within the international community to draw attention to the problem. Secondly, we are providing finance and support to the United Nations Population Fund, which works hard in that field. Thirdly, and most importantly, we are ourselves funding a large number of supply programmes, including many social marketing programmes in many of the countries in which we work, to provide condoms and other reproductive health supplies.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park) (LD)

The Secretary of State will know that wherever he goes in the third world villages always seem to have access to Coca Cola and other such products. What is he doing to ensure that reproductive health supplies, especially condoms, are as available as Coca Cola?

Hilary Benn

I am not sure that the Department for International Development can hope to match Coca Cola—

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con)

Be bold.

Hilary Benn

May I give a practical example in answer to the hon. Lady's question? When I was in Pakistan just after Christmas, I met a group of lady health workers in Peshawar, where we are helping to fund a programme. Part of our increased aid programme in Pakistan is to allow more lady health workers to be employed in poor communities in that country. They work with families and mums on family planning, ensuring that supplies are available, and on child health and maternal mortality. That is a practical contribution and is one of the many examples, of which I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, of ways in which we are trying to address the question she raised.

Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab)

I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State say that many of the millennium development goals cannot be achieved without good reproductive health services, but the fact is that in Africa, supply of those services falls behind demand year by year. What are the international reasons for that and what can be done to give African women the same right to choose the size of their families as we have?

Hilary Benn: Partly

we need to ensure that in the development programmes that we undertake we give particular priority to precisely the point raised by my hon. Friend—enabling women to have more control over what happens to them. That is one of the most effective ways to ensure that right. The second thing we can do is to increase the size of our international development budget, including the budget for Africa, and by 2005–06 we shall be spending a billion pounds a year bilaterally. That is the expression of a practical commitment to support all that work.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con)

What are the Government doing to encourage emulation of the example set by the Ugandan Government, who seek to teach young people that promiscuity is not necessary to adult life?

Hilary Benn

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the leadership that the Government of Uganda and President Museveni have provided, especially on HIV/ AIDS. In that country, we can see the benefit of strong political leadership in telling people, "This is the virus, this is how you catch it" and, crucially, "These are the steps that you can take in order t o prevent yourself from being infected". We have seen the prevalence rate in Uganda fall—as it has done in Senegal, too. That is one of the most important things that Governments can do to enable their peoples to protect themselves.

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