Tory MP Andrew Mitchell hit back after Channel 4 host Matt Frei suggested it was “very difficult to justify” sending aid despite a famine being declared after a civil war broke out.
Frei asked: “While they’re busy fighting, we’re paying the food bill of half a million people suffering potentially from starvation – that is very difficult to justify, isn’t it?”
But the politician said that it was a “massive oversimplification” and made the case for the UK to contribute to aid provisions in the region.
He said the country was going through a “transition” and that the UK had a responsibility to help those suffering through no fault of their own.
Matt Frei grilled Andrew Mitchell over the UK sending aid to South Sudan
The people who we are trying to help there they are in this position through no fault of their own and common humanity means we should be going to help the poor people who are starving in South Sudan
Tory MP Andrew Mitchell
“The leaders of the military have not transformed themselves into a government and we’re living with the consequences of that,” he said.
“But let’s be clear, the people who we are trying to help there they are in this position through no fault of their own and common humanity means we should be going to help the poor people who are starving in South Sudan and indeed in northeastern Nigeria and Yemen and Somalia.
“It is appalling in this year, 2017, we have a biblical famine starting in all four of these countries – a situation we haven’t seen in 20 years and we never thought we would see again.”
He added: “Britian with its leadership on international development along with other countries must now go to help the poor and innocent people in these countries who are going to die in very large numbers unless the international community galvanises itself.”
Heartbreaking photographs depict children starving to death Tue, February 21, 2017
Almost 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from acute malnutrition this year as famine looms in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, UNICEF revealed.
Play slideshow UNICEF 1 of 13
Emmanuel Kenyi, a 2.5-year-old child with severe malnutrition, sits on a bed while a nutrition specialist prepares his milk at the malnutrition ward of the clinic run by the International Medical Corps (IMC) in the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC)
Sudanese women carry a bag of food aid following conflict in the region
Frei probed further and asked to what extent the UK could use “moral obligation” and money “flowing in that direction” as “leverage” to end conflict in the region.
Mr Mitchell admitted talks were “not going terribly well” but said it was a “uniquely difficult situation”.
However, he insisted the issue of ending conflict was “very separate to the issue of feeding starving people”.
He then dismissed the idea sending aid could “perpetuate” conflict and said they were “two separate issues”.
He added: “It’s quite wrong to say ‘because there’s fighting going on – and that is the fault of their leaders’ inadequacy in that country – the poor people that are there should suffer and starve to death’.”
The Government and the United Nations believe about 100,000 people are facing starvation with a million more on the brink of famine.