Letter from Parliament - Jim Dobbin MP
Date published: 19 February 2011
On Monday 14 February, I was invited by the Ministry of Public Health in Kenya to attend the global rollout of the pneumococcal vaccine in Nairobi in the presence of the President of Kenya. The invitation came because I am Chairman of the Global Action against Childhood Pneumonia All Party Group in Parliament. The Group has written a report on this serious issue. The world’s biggest child killer is pneumonia. The Global alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI) and their funding partners which include the Bill Gates Foundation and a number of countries including the UK have provided the financial incentives. In 2008, pneumonia claimed 30,000 lives among children under five in Kenya, yet a single vaccine only costs pennies.
Although the ceremony launched by the president was colourful and full of local singing and dancing, I was brought back to reality when I visited a local district hospital and a local health centre and saw for myself the logistics of this serious problem. In both centres I saw hundreds of babies suffering with diseases like meningitis, Aids, malnutrition, blood sepsis and pneumonia packed with their mothers into tiny wards. I saw one incubator with three babies in it and one oxygen cylinder linked up to six babies. The conditions were awful but I must say the medical and nursing staff were working extremely hard, showed great experience and were doing their utmost in horrendous conditions, yet the scale of the problem was overwhelming. The extremely poor water sanitation adds to their difficulties. It is a good example of why the developed nations need to support vaccination programmes in developing countries. Assisting them in eradicating disease and poverty will eventually help our own poverty levels, which in comparison are minimal.
The two controversial issues in Westminster of course have been the u-turn on forests and the Welfare Reforms. I had an exceptionally large number of emails about both issues and many Tory and Lib Dem constituents were directly affected which probably influenced the Coalition Government’s decision on the forest sell-off.
The Welfare Reforms are big on hype but lack detail. It’s the small print that will be the test of how severely benefits claimants will be affected. The so- called ring fenced NHS is now beginning to cut large numbers of staff. Private business consortia are waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces. So much for ring fencing! Did we not hear the Prime Minister say the NHS is safe in our hands?
With unemployment (youth unemployment in particular) and inflation rising, the Government admit there is no plan B. Isn’t that a pity for most of us? The Government economic austerity policies are beginning to bite. There is much worse to come. However, maybe the Big Society will come to the rescue.
I attended the presentation at Hopwood Hall College Annual Review and we should be proud of the improved performance of the college. I worry however that the withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and Jobs Fund will discourage our young people from pursuing a further and higher education route. As I write this article, we await the local authority budget and it will be interesting to see how many Lib Dem run Councils turn on Nick Clegg for his part in cutting local authority budgets so harshly.
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