James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, has co-published a report emphasising the importance of living up to the challenge of reconstructing Afghanistan.

The report has been published by the cross-party International Development Committee in the House of Commons, of which James is a member. The Committee has been examining the UK’s aid programme in Afghanistan, which is being undertaken alongside the British military programme in the country.

The Committee has concluded that Afghanistan has made considerable progress in health, education and economic growth since 2001, but still has a long way to go – and that the UK should remain committed for many years accordingly.

James and the Committee visited Afghanistan in October to see the situation on the ground for themselves. James said:

“With the military effort in Afghanistan being so big it’s easy to forget the work being done to help the normal people who actually live there. Their living conditions are incredibly poor. Under a third of women receive ante-natal care, which is already an increase from just 5% in 2001 – here in Southend such poor access to health services would be absolutely unthinkable.

“Donors need to work together, with each other and with the Afghan government, to reconstruct Afghanistan. Most important, we need to build up the country’s own government so that it can deliver vital basic services to its own people.”

Although James and his colleagues were focusing on the development aid programme in Afghanistan, there was naturally a lot of linkage with the UK’s military effort. James went to some of the camps, where he met one soldier who was born in Southend Hospital:

“One of the biggest things any MP votes on is sending our troops to war, so my visit to Afghanistan was very important to help me understand the conditions that they face on the ground.”

18 February 2008