Gales View -  22nd June 2011
In Southern Sudan, which is due to become a state in its own right on July 9th, a child has more chance of dying than completing even primary education.
 
Place that statistic alongside the announcement, made by the Prime minister last week, that the United Kingdom will be responsible for the vaccination of one child in the developing world every 2 seconds for the next five years and that we will help to save one child`s life every 2 minutes for the same period.

Sierra Leone
Then ask yourself whether or not our overseas aid budget is worthwhile..
 
On an underground station in Central London there is an Oxfam poster that portrays a photograph of an elderly lady with a caption that reads; “Akiru.  Everything that she will eat today she can hold in the palm of her hands.  Rising food prices, climate change and world leaders are letting people down”.  It is, of course, a fundraising advertisement but the fact is correct. Throughout the continent of Africa people are still starving, still dying of curable and preventable illnesses and a thousand women lose their lives in childbirth every day. And that situation is repeated throughout much of the developing world. 
 
From time to time I receive letters telling me that “charity begins at home” and suggesting that in an age of austerity, brought about by the failure of the last administration to properly regulate our economy, we should be concentrating our investment upon our own needs and not increasing aid to others overseas. I understand that view but I do not share it.
 
It is certainly true that every household in the land is experiencing rising costs. It is, of course, all relative and those with greater resources feel the pain much less than those already living at the margins of our own society. I know of nobody, though, in the United Kingdom who is living on less than a dollar a day, who does not have access to healthcare and clean water and for whom literally every waking and sleeping minute is a struggle against famine and disease.
 
It has got to be morally right that as still one of the world`s successful developed economies we endeavour to assist those whose needs make our own pale into insignificance.   Overseas aid represents just three and a half per cent of our own welfare budget.  It helps to promote global security and that has to be in the long-term interests of our own country.  It is not only better but much more cost-effective to head off problems before they reach crisis point rather than have to mount expensive and frequently inadequate damage-limitation exercises disaster has struck.
 
The new government is basing its aid programme upon results and not, as in the past, upon the amount of money spent.  The number of countries in which we invest aid is under stringent review. China and Russia, which should not have been in the programme at all, have been removed and others will follow as the overall figure is reduced from forty three to somewhere in the region of twenty-five states.  The politically-correct  “vanity projects”  have been eradicated and value for money is the new order of the day.  If taxpayer`s money is to be invested in overseas aid then we have a right to know that 100 pence in every pound is being spent upon the delivery of, for example, clean water, vaccination and education.  That has to be, and will be, the subject of independent evaluation.
 
Management has to begin at home and it is not widely understood that while the aid budget has been increased the Department for International development is itself facing the same 33% reduction in administration costs as every other government department. That means that more of the DFID budget is to be spent at the sharp end where it makes a real difference.
 
Yes, times in the UK are hard and it gives no comfort to say that they will get harder still before our own economy recovers. But I am proud that we now have a Prime Minister and a government that is prepared to lead the way and not  join the ranks of those “world leaders” that, Oxfam says, “are letting people down.”
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