Aid to target poor

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Britain is to make a big switch in its aid programme to meet the needs of the world's poorest people, writes Geoffrey Lean.

The switch, which will provide an extra pounds 120m for healthcare, education and clean water in Africa over the next three years, is the first concrete result of the determination of Clare Short, the new Secretary of State for International Development, to ensure that aid really is aimed at attacking poverty.

She has succeeded in winning the support of the Prime Minister and other senior ministers for a radical redirection of aid to help achieve an internationally agreed target of halving the proportion of the world's people living in extreme poverty within the next 18 years.

One in six of Africa's children die before the age of five. More than half of the continent's people have no clean water to drink, the main cause of disease.

The new policy, which will increase the sum spent on basic needs by half, will bring no new money into the aid programme (frozen by Labour's pre-election commitment) but will divert funds now being spent on less poverty-orientated projects.