Dáil Éireann - Volume 494 - 07 October, 1998

Written Answers. - Sudanese Famine.

70. Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department will increase the amount of funding to Sudan in the 1999 Estimates. [18965/98]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): The Deputy will be aware that the 1999 Estimates have not been finalised. Funding is not allocated [1389] in advance to particular humanitarian emergencies. However, I can say that it is proposed to allocate at least the same overall amount of resources to the Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Fund within the Development Co-operation budget as in 1998. This allows the Government to respond to emergencies as they arise.

We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation arising from the conflict in Sudan and have, with the Department of Agriculture, given almost £1.4 million in emergency assistance so far this year. One of the conclusions of my own visit there in August was that emergency assistance will need to continue to be provided on a very large scale over the next 12 months if famine is to be avoided. A technical mission from the Department of Foreign Affairs will travel to the region at the end of this month to monitor the impact of resources given so far this year and to plan for 1999.

Irish aid has had a bilateral development programme in operation in Sudan since 1975. In common with other Irish aid bilateral country programmes, the activities in the Sudan country programme had a planned duration and we have now reached the point where it is appropriate to conclude the programme activities. Given our continuing concern over the policies of the Sudanese Government, it is not considered appropriate at this time to undertake an entirely new bilateral programme. The programme office, which has been implementing our bilateral programme, will, therefore, be closed at the end of this year. This approach is similar to that taken by our partners in the EU. The closure of the bilateral country programme will not effect the substantial humanitarian assistance measures already outlined.