HC Deb 14 January 1999 vol 323 cc267-8W
Miss Geraldine Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans the Government have to provide long-term aid for the reconstruction of Nicaragua and Honduras after the period of the current emergency aid. [65336]

Mr. Foulkes

We are looking at a number of ways of giving help to those affected by Hurricane Mitch, both in the short and long term.

During the immediate emergency phase, we provided funding for food, medicine and shelter through non-governmental organisations and four British ships did tremendous work during the relief effort, including rescuing people stranded in remote areas.

Following a Department for International Development (DFID) mission to the region in November, a further programme of assistance was announced which included rebuilding secondary roads and bridges, repairing water and sanitation infrastructure, restoring primary health and education services and work on epidemiological surveillance and epidemic control.

Our plans for help in the long term include a fund to strengthen the capacity of local organisations to enable them to make fuller use of loans provided by the Inter American Development Bank and a project aimed at regenerating crop production through provision of appropriate seed.

We are also currently investigating the possibility of working with the Pan American Health Organisation on health projects in the region, a programme of longer term support alongside the emergency road-building project announced in my statement of 4 December, a micro finance scheme, and support to a regional rural development and natural resources technical assistance unit (RUTA).

On debt, we are pleased that the World Bank has now approved a multilateral Trust Fund to help with the servicing of multilateral debts. The UK has pledged £10 million to this fund, and total pledges now stand at well over $100 million. When the Paris Club met at the beginning of December, they agreed a debt relief package worth over £100 million.