Dáil Éireann - Volume 557 - 13 November, 2002

Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

  138. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives he proposes to take [532] through the EU or the UN to alleviate starvation in the Horn of Africa. [21606/02]

  Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The Government is actively responding to the growing food security crisis in the Horn of Africa region, both bilaterally and with our partners in the EU and the United Nations.

  Recent assessments by the United Nations' World Food Programme and the European Commission Humanitarian Office have revealed widespread losses of maize and sorghum crops, the staple foods for most rural people in the Horn of Africa region, due mainly to poor rainfall. As a consequence at least 12 million people are threatened with famine in the Horn of Africa region. Coupled with the food security crisis already taking hold in Southern Africa, the grim forecast is that more than 26 million African people will require food assistance over the next eight months.

  The alleviation of poverty in Africa was one of the central themes addressed by Ireland at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development last September. In his address to the summit the Taoiseach highlighted the food security crisis threatening Africa and the need for an urgent international response.

  The Minister of State with special responsibility for overseas development assistance, Deputy Tom Kitt, raised the crisis in the Horn of Africa in discussions he had with World Bank and UN agency representatives during a visit to Washington and New York last week. Last July Deputy Kitt met the EU Commissioner Poul Nielson in Brussels for discussions on EU action in response to a number of food crises in Africa. Ireland Aid has also been working closely at official level with partners in the EU and the United Nations to develop strategies on how immediate food needs across the Horn of Africa may best be addressed at both the national and regional levels.

  At the bilateral level, Ireland Aid has delivered over €3.5 million in emergency humanitarian relief to the Horn of Africa region to date this year. On 22 October a special €1 million emergency food aid package for Ethiopia, the country worst affected in the region, was announced by my Minister of State, Deputy Kitt. It is anticipated that this funding will be allocated in the coming weeks to key international agencies providing food and other essential humanitarian assistance, as well as to Irish non-governmental organisations operating on the ground. Deputy Kitt will work closely with Irish NGOs in the preparation of Ireland's response to this crisis.

  In Ethiopia, in addition to emergency humanitarian assistance, Ireland Aid is delivering long-term development support with an emphasis on poverty reduction through the provision of basic needs and capacity building support. Food security needs are addressed as part of this approach. Ireland Aid is supporting a new programme of operational research in agriculture, which brings [533] together a number of Ethiopian and foreign centres of expertise to look at policy, strategy and specific interventions that will enhance efforts to meet food security needs in the Tigray and southern regions of Ethiopia, areas which are affected by chronic food insecurity.

  We will continue to follow the unfolding situation in the Horn of Africa closely. The Government stands prepared to deliver further assistance from the Ireland Aid programme in the coming months. We will work with our donor partners in the EU and the UN to ensure maximum co-ordination and coherence in the international response to this crisis.