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"Every day, 25,000 children die of diseases which we absolutely have the power to prevent."

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-07-18 at 15.03.17Opinion polls - and threads on ConHome - regularly show that Britain's aid budget is unpopular.

I know I'm in a minority on this issue but I'm very proud that Britain is a world leader in fighting hunger and treatable disease in other nations.

On today's Politics Show, Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, did a sterling job at defending the Coalition's commitment to spend 0.7% of the nation's income on development assistance.

The key fact he communicated was the headline of this post: "Every day, 25,000 children die of diseases which we absolutely have the power to prevent."

Yes, we absolutely have the power to prevent. George W Bush redirected the US aid budget towards the treatment of treatable diseases and hundreds of thousands of people are alive today as a result. Millions more - particularly children - are leading much healthier lives.  Bob Geldof praised him to the sky as a result.

Over at Coffee House, Fraser Nelson asks: Why build schools in Afghanistan, but cancel them in Britain? On the Politics Show Andrew Mitchell gave a good answer:

"We are educating in Britain today 4.8 million primary school children. We are educating overseas some five million children at two and a half per cent of the cost. So if you were to repatriate the whole of that budget you would barely even buy a laptop in a class. We need to do both... Charity begins at home. But my point is that charity does begin at home but it doesn’t end there."

In other words, we can stop giving any aid to the world's poorest people - no more humanitarian aid to the starving and no more medicines for people unable to fight basic viruses - and it won't solve our problems here.

None of this means that we can't make better use of Britain's aid budget and Mr Mitchell understands this. I recently wrote about the ways in which he is (1) redirecting the UK budget towards the very poorest countries, (2) ensuring that it can be publicly inspected online, (3) is reviewing our contributions to less effective multilateral aid agencies and (4) is cutting fat from the Department for International Development. Neither does this mean that aid is more important than trade or overseas investment. Both are much more important in fighting poverty but aid should be part of the mix.

The most important meeting I went to last week was hosted by new Tory MP Jeremy Lefroy. The meeting was addressed by Stephen O'Brien and attended by Pauline Latham MP. It was about the problem of malaria (see Sport Relief/ Chris Moyes video below). An entirely treatable problem and one which is being addressed by money sent by you, me and every UK taxpayer. Children are alive today because of that money. Rejoice!


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