Speaking in a Parliamentary debate about the Central African Republic (CAR), Brooks Newmark talks about his visit to the country and highlights an opportunity to make a real difference to the country through better healthcare.
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I was not going to speak in the debate, but I have been inspired by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg). I think that I am one of the only Members of Parliament who has had an opportunity to visit the Central African Republic. I was inspired to visit CAR following a trip to Rwanda, thinking, “Here is a broken state that we can perhaps have a constructive role in.” For anyone who is interested, a good primer would be to read the excellent “Malaria Dreams: An African Adventure” by Stuart Stevens. It was written several years ago, but sometimes things never change. I highly recommend that people read it.
CAR is a broken state that is surrounded by three other broken states: Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. It is a remarkable country, because it is rich in natural resources that have never really been taken advantage of. I visited with Merlin, a health care NGO that was recently taken over by Save the Children, and I want to make a couple of suggestions to the Minister.
I visited eight regions with hospitals that are effectively white elephants. There is nothing there. The problem is a lack of medicine. I costed fixing up the hospitals and providing medicine for five years, and it would cost something like £7 million to £10 million, which is not huge given the size of the Department for International Development’s budget. If anyone from DFID is listening to the debate, one way that we could help the country is through better health care.
The second way, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby mentioned, is by looking at Rwanda as an example of government and how Governments can change. If we can work with the CAR Government to help them try to have some form of proper governance and a proper transition, we can perhaps grab them out of the French orbit, as we did with Rwanda, and it can perhaps one day be the third African country with no link to Britain to join the Commonwealth.
Earlier intervention in the same debate
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I am probably the only Member of Parliament—I appreciate that Members of the House of Lords have been there—who has visited the CAR. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one big problem is that it is surrounded by three broken states—Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan—and becomes a black hole for all the failures of those surrounding states, with all the bad people from there going in and causing even greater problems? That is a major problem that we need to deal with.
Stephen Twigg: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I have not visited the CAR and I did not know until he told me just before the debate that he had done so. It is always helpful for the House to hear such first-hand accounts from Members. If the time allows us—it may do, with the extension—perhaps we could hear a little more from him about that experience after I have spoken. He is right: CAR has its own issues, which I am addressing, but it is surrounded by countries where there are challenges, including the ones he described. Also, Nigeria is not far away and issues such as Boko Haram and the insecurity and instability there may be relevant to the CAR’s security situation in future.