No one is expecting today's Autumn Statement to bring much in the way of Christmas cheer. However, one good story is the remarkable progress of British aid and what it is achieving for the world's poorest children. A story that is seldom told. A story that the British public should be proud of.
We have seen massive breakthroughs in reducing global poverty, and especially the number of child deaths. British aid has played a large part in this - a result of many campaigns such as Make Poverty History. The number of children dying from easily preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria has dramatically fallen - from 12million to just under 7million last year. If such progress continues, our generation could be the first to ensure no child dies from a preventable illness and that every child has both a life free from hunger and the chance to go to school. Aid is working and this Government deserves enormous credit for delivering on its promise to the poorest.
I saw the impact that UK aid can have on my recent trip to Somalia. When I met Nasteha, aged two, she was very ill from hunger and very close to death. Having walked with her mother for four days to get help she was severely malnourished. Over the course of a month Nasteha was given intense treatment and recovered returning to a bright and sparky two-year-old again. Helping the world's poorest children like Nasteha is the right and smart thing to do.
By investing aid particularly in education and healthcare, we are giving children a future that they can be a part of, growing up to be healthy and educated individuals who can participate in a productive economy. By helping build strong economies we are helping countries sustain themselves in the future, reducing the need for external donors to provide aid in the longer term.
For developing countries aid is a vital catalyst in bringing about all of the changes that are a prerequisite to the flow of private investment and long-term economic growth, from improved healthcare and education to better governance, administrative capacity, and infrastructure investment. This growth helps countries become more attractive trading partners, opening up new markets for regional and international firms and generating employment. Such global growth will be vital to the UK's future.
Africa's potential for growth and development is increasingly clear. Its growth rate of 4.7% per annum is better than Brazil's and for the first time in decades its share of the world economy is rising. By 2040 its work force is expected to reach 1.25 billion.
Nigeria's recent growth has seen the UK recently agree to double trade between the two countries to £8 billion by 2014. However, the country is Africa's most populous, with an estimated 158million people, and has a quarter of the continent's extreme poor. Nigeria still has high rates of child mortality and many children don't have a chance to go to school. However, our aid expertise combined with our investment in trade will help turn this around - improving Nigeria's prospects for its children as well as helping it become a good trading partner. For proof that it works we have only too look at Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda and Vietnam who were all strongly supported by aid and grew by more than 7% in the last decade.
Ultimately the true impact of aid on economic growth is what it means for future generations. To walk away from our commitments to aid now would be catastrophic not only for poorer countries but to the long-term global and UK economic recovery, and of course the lives of the millions of children that depend on a strong economy for their chance of a decent future.
That is why it is vital that we stay the course and deliver on the aid that we have promised.
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