HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc437-8W
Mr. Streeter

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps her Department has taken to help the people of Colombia following the earthquake. [68569]

Clare Short

Our programme of support to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs helped ensure that these agencies moved speedily to conduct initial damage and needs assessments following the severe earthquake on Colombia on 25 January. We have responded quickly to the appeal for assistance from the Government of Colombia by contributing US$1 million through humanitarian agencies. In addition, the European Community's Humanitarian Office has contributed $1.25 million, of which the UK share is $187,500.

Our funds are supporting the Pan-American Health Organisation to enable the deployment of epidemiology specialists, conduct damage assessment to health facilities, water and sewerage infrastructure and purchase medical supplies; the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to bring life-saving assistance to 100,000 people; Oxfam for a programme to provide drinking water for 80,000 people, as well as emergency shelter and household utensils, concentrating particularly on the poorer districts of the city of America and outlying towns; and United Nations Children's Fund to cover the immediate needs of children including those orphaned or separated from their families. Funds allocated to the British Embassy are providing urgently needed medicines and chemical toilets.

Inevitably a catastrophe of this nature and magnitude creates practical and logistical problems on the ground. Therefore, it is important that the relief is carefully targeted and effectively coordinated. We continue to work with the humanitarian agencies in Colombia and elsewhere to strengthen the international system to be better prepared and more effective in responding to disasters.

We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and remain ready to offer further assistance in Colombia to help with unmet priority needs that may emerge in coming days.