Minister: “We should be proud of how we play our part in tackling global challenges.”

October 25, 2018 by No Comments | Category International Development

Minister for International Development, Ben Macpherson:

Since being appointed as the Minister for International Development, one of my key priorities has been to strengthen and enhance Scotland’s firm commitment to global citizenship, built upon our long-held values of internationalism and solidarity with others around the world. Scotland can and should be proud of how we play our part in tackling global challenges including poverty, injustice and inequality. That’s why we have an international development programme, reflecting both Scotland’s history and its modern day culture, as a compassionate, outward-looking nation.

My first stop on my Southern African trip was Zambia. Scotland’s links to Zambia extend back more than 150 years, to the days of Dr David Livingstone. In more modern times, many Scots have worked in Zambia, and equally Scotland today has a strong Zambian community. Building on these historical ties, we have been enhancing our original development programme in Zambia, and working hard to build new relationships.

My first day started with an inspiring visit to Beit Cure Hospital in Lusaka. I met medical staff who provide life-changing ear, nose and throat treatment to children and young people, both in the city and in some of the most rural areas.

The Scottish Government, through our International Development Fund, support many organisations ranging from helping Friends of Chitambo fit solar panels to the local hospital to First Aid Africa training emergency responders in areas of significant need.

Visiting the ’Levelling the Field’ initiative, which we fund jointly with Comic Relief, I was welcomed by both Action Aid staff and young women who benefit from the Grassroots Soccer project. The programme uses the power of sport to encourage young women to develop physical skills and abilities through football, while simultaneously developing their personal confidence and resilience.

I later met staff from the Open University’s Zambian Education School-based Training (ZEST) programme at Liteta Primary School, which improves the quality of primary school teaching and learning by developing teachers’ skills.

I also visited Malawi, and from the short time I spent there, I now understand why it is referred to as “the warm heart of Africa”. The welcome I received was like returning home to friends!

The partnership between our countries again dates back more than 150 years and they are stronger and more productive than ever. Earlier this year our two Governments reaffirmed our commitment; updating our formal relationship in respect of the UN Global Goals, and reaffirming our collective determination to work together to achieve these goals in both Malawi and in Scotland.

More than 10,000 people in Scotland are directly involved in our partnership; so are more than 200,000 people in Malawi – this is truly remarkable and I’m sure our connections will continue to grow and grow.

In Malawi I visited the Fistula Unit at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe. Here the dedicated staff treat more than 400 women every year but the unit also gives patients help to rebuild their lives, following the surgery needed to repair their fistula after childbirth. Some of these women suffered for decades before receiving the post-natal medical care they so desperately needed. Others were just young girls. What they all had in common was newfound hope for their futures, and a determination to be self-sufficient. I had the opportunity to meet a young woman called Bridget who has been training other young women in how to make and sell reusable sanitary products. I was also incredibly touched that they also “pay it forward”, donating some of the sanitary towels to girls in local schools. This project is guided by one of the most charismatic and passionate leaders I have met – Margaret Moyo. I am proud that the Scottish Government – alongside Ann Gloag, one of Scotland’s leading philanthropists are lending these women our support towards the valuable work at this hospital, even in a small way.

Healthcare is one of the main areas we support through Scotland’s international development work, sharing skills and expertise, so I was pleased to see how our support will help train the next generation of dentists at the College of Medicine in Malawi. Our partnership model lends itself to two-way learning and benefits both countries. For over 10 years our partnership with Malawi’s College of Medicine has supported improvements for many, and the dedicated staff, who have a real passion for the positive work they do, will continue to improve many more lives in the years to come.

Unfortunately, food security is a challenging issue in parts of Malawi. That’s why I also visited a Mary’s Meals project. The work of this Scottish-based charity, which the Scottish Government has supported since its early days, now helps over 1 million children in Malawi. Providing a staple meal in the way of porridge with nutrients to help children to learn, it was moving to see first-hand the positive impact that Mary’s Meals makes, largely down to support and contributions from communities across Scotland.

Visiting both countries during United Nations Global Goals week has allowed us all to build on what are already internationally recognised partnerships. Scotland’s development work is increasingly recognised for working directly with organisations, in countries like Malawi and Zambia, rather than funding governments or development from afar. Our contributions and initiatives are always in a spirit of partnership and I look forward to progressing this important work in further collaboration with others.


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