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Making Britain Better: Alan Duncan MP

by Alan Duncan

DUNCAN ALAN As Minister for International Development I recently visited the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in Bangladesh. This amazing organisation is dedicated to combating and eradicating acid violence in Bangladesh. ASF has been funded by the UK through the Department for International Development (DFID) since 2004.

Acid attacks, in which sulphuric acid is thrown over the victim, cause the skin to melt, sometime exposing the bone and often blinding the victim in one or both eyes. While a relatively uncommon occurrence the UK, acid violence has grown into a potent crime culture in other parts of the world. In Bangladesh, an attack takes place every two days.

Attacks in Bangladesh are usually the result of rejected marriage proposals, land disputes or the desire for revenge. The overwhelming majority of victims are young women and children. Permanently disfigured and psychologically scarred, survivors are often shunned from their local communities, making it impossible for them to find work or get married.

Between May 1999 and December 2010, some 2,433 women, children and men in Bangladesh fell victim to acid attacks. Though the rate of acid violence is in decline, the number of attacks remains alarmingly high - there have been 37 this year alone.

During my visit to the ASFcentre I met over 30 victims of acid attacks. Three women talked to me individually about their own personal experience of being attacked and how ASF had helped them. I announced DFID's commitment to maintaining support for ASF, and in my meeting with the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, pressed her to look into the allocation of a plot of land for a new, upgraded facility for the organisation.

Between 2000 to 2010, DFID funding has helped ASF to:

* provide support to 1306 survivors for rehabilitation
* cover treatment costs for 3135 victims of acid attacks across Bangladesh
* establish a dedicated burns unit at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital

Thanks to the organisation acid survivors are now involved in a variety of occupations. Some have been supported to set up their own businesses, some work as peer educators,counsellors and care givers and some have found occupations in the private sector. A significant number are also continuing their education.

The author is an Overseas Development Minister