Dáil Éireann - Volume 525 - 09 November, 2000
Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.
Mr. Gormley Mr. Gormley
71. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received any information from GOAL in relation to the situation in Uganda; the action he will take with regard to the situation there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25349/00]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I am aware of the current situation in Uganda, across a whole range of sectors. Our information on the country was updated in preparation for and during the recent visit by the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.
I am aware too of the issues raised by GOAL in relation to HIV-AIDS and the ebola virus. I answered questions on these issues last week. In those replies I said that I was keenly conscious that the disease of HIV-AIDS is causing extreme suffering and hardship for many individuals and their dependants in Uganda. Out of an overall population of 21.2 million, approximately 1.9 million Ugandans are infected with HIV accord ing to the Uganda poverty status report 2000. AIDS has been reported as one of the leading causes of death in adults and there were an estimated 1.7 million AIDS orphans in Uganda by the end of last year. Life expectancy in Uganda has fallen from 48 to 42 in the last decade and the HIV-AIDS epidemic has been the major factor in this regard.
The extent of this problem and the impact it is having on development in Uganda and throughout sub-Saharan Africa requires a substantive and coherent response from the international community and from governments of affected countries. Though now late in the epidemic, there is at this point a much greater global recognition of the extent of the disease and, as a result, a substantive volume of international resources has been mobilised for HIV-AIDS prevention and containment.
The Government of Uganda responded early and comprehensively to the problem of HIV-AIDS in Uganda and the President has never wasted an opportunity to highlight the extent of the problem of HIV-AIDS and the need for a systematic and sustained response. Since the early 1990's, the Government has instituted a multi-sectoral response to HIV-AIDS that has resulted in a very significant decrease in the annual incidence of the disease. Recent data would indicate that the prevalence of HIV-AIDS in Uganda has decreased from over 14% of adults in the early 1990's to approximately 9% in 1999.
There is a recognition also in Uganda that HIV-AIDS will continue to present a huge challenge to poverty reduction and development for many years ahead and that attempts to control the disease will need to be sustained. Furthermore, the response of the Government of Uganda to HIV-AIDS is now being highlighted by the international community as an example to be followed by other poorer countries being faced with a similar burden of HIV-AIDS.
A specific HIV-AIDS strategy was launched by the Minister of State Deputy O'Donnell, in January 2000, in response to the huge threat HIV-AIDS presents to the development of countries which benefit from the support of the Irish Government's bilateral aid programme, known as Ireland Aid. This strategy provides for the allocation of a very considerable volume of resources for HIV-AIDS activities across the Ireland Aid programme.
Uganda is one of Ireland Aid's six priority countries. Ireland Aid has allocated substantive financial resources in support of HIV-AIDS interventions in Uganda over the next three years, in line with its overall HIV-AIDS strategy and in response to the huge challenge of HIV-AIDS in the country. In addition, very substantial resources have been allocated for the development of the health sector. Clearly financial resources will be directed to interventions that are demonstrated to be effective and that are situated within the framework of the Government of Uganda's national strategic framework for HIV- AIDS activities. This framework has been agreed between Government, international agencies and civil society organisations.
In addition to support for HIV-AIDS interventions undertaken by the Government and civil society in Uganda, Ireland Aid has a budget this year of £7.37 million available to Irish aid organisations, under its co-financing scheme with non-governmental organisations, for development projects which meet basic needs such as primary health care. Following the Taoiseach's recent announcement at the UN Millennium Summit in New York of the Government's commitment to reach the UN development target of 0.7% of GNP by 2007, it is anticipated that funding available to Irish aid organisations under the co-financing scheme will increase from next year.
In those earlier replies, I referred also to the outbreak of the virulent viral disease ebola in the Gulu district of northern Uganda which presents a further challenge in the fight against communicable diseases. A total of 111 cases have been reported with 41 deaths. Cases were first reported in the local hospital but have since occurred in the surrounding community. The ebola virus is highly contagious and strict containment is the only viable response in the absence of a specific treatment or vaccine. A rapid response team was dispatched by the World Health Organisation to support its local office in Uganda and to work with the Ugandan national authorities in containing the disease within the outbreak zone. Following a recent request from the Ugandan authorities, the Government has granted IR£75,000 in support of the work of the World Health Organisation in Gulu.
The Irish aid programme in Uganda is therefore using all of the means available to it, through focused Government programmes and through NGOs, to assist in the battle against HIV-AIDS and the ebola virus and to assist in the many challenges right across the health sector.
Dáil Éireann 525 Written Answers. Overseas Development Aid.