Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 30 January 2009


I was in Uganda last week on a small cross party delegation (not funded by the tax payer!) examining water and sanitation projects partly supported by a British charity, Tearfund. We were hosted by a Ugandan MP who told us that 40% of his constituents do not have access to clean water, not in their homes, but not even in their village. So the women and the girls have to walk several miles twice a day to bring back water to their households. Uganda has made good progress since the devastating regime of Idi Amin, but they still cannot fund all that they need to do to provide basic living standards for their people.

We were able to inspect very basic rainwater collection projects partly funded by the charity which meant that fresh water was available in the community for the first time. $350 buys you a gutter, a pipe a 16,000 litre collection tank and a tap; a simple system which can transform lives, requires next to no maintenance and supplies a dozen families. I asked one man what difference having water in his back yard had made to his life and he danced on the spot and broke into a song, indicating approval! So much can be achieved for relatively little if there is an active partnership between honest community institutions like the church and outside donors and we were very impressed. There is a long way to go: our MP host also told us that 25% of his constituents do not own shoes, something which was very evident and he spoke openly of the corruption that blights his continent. .

Why should we bother with overseas aid when we have enough problems of our own? I know some will claim, especially in a recession, that charity begins at home. However, the great British public have repeatedly shown that they understand the moral imperative to do what we can for those who are less fortunate than ourselves and that principle holds good even when we enter tough times, largely self-induced. Besides, the world is now inter-dependant and poverty is a compelling recruiting sergeant for extremism. In the longer term, we will never tackle the pressures of migration unless we see the developing world acquire some of the basic standards of living and stability that we take for granted.

I always come back from these trips hugely grateful for all that we have in the UK.

posted by Gary @ 10:05