Dáil Éireann - Volume 562 - 05 March, 2003
Written Answers - Foreign Conflicts.
Mr. Sherlock Mr. Sherlock
123. Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has plans for a programme of humanitarian relief and assistance in the event of a military strike being launched against Iraq in view of the UN's estimates that an estimated 3.03 million people, including 2.03 million already malnourished children under the age of five, would face starvation and require therapeutic feeding, and that as many as 500,000 civilians would require medical treatment as a result of a war; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6439/03]
Mr. Crawford Mr. Crawford
184. Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps the Government has taken to ensure that the potential refugee crisis in and around Iraq will be met by an appropriate and comprehensive EU response. [6568/03]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 184 together.
I do not accept that war in Iraq is inevitable. I  continue to believe that all means short of force must be tried and exhausted and that force must be used only as a last resort. The possible humanitarian consequences of a conflict in Iraq are of deep concern to the Government. It is not possible at this stage to accurately gauge the needs of those who may be directly and adversely affected by a possible conflict. A number of scenarios are being examined by UN agencies and by non-governmental organisations with the benefit of the most up-to-date information available.
We know that 60% of the population is fully dependent on the food rations distributed each month under the oil for food programme. We are also aware that the health, water and sanitation infrastructure of the country is in a very poor state of repair. In the event of a conflict there is a real possibility that the food pipeline and the distribution of basic services could be interrupted with severe humanitarian consequences. In addition, conflict may lead to the displacement of many thousands of Iraqi families both internally and externally.
In circumstances where conflict is possible, humanitarian agencies must prudently plan for all possible eventualities. As I mentioned in the Dáil on 11 February, we have sought and obtained a confidential briefing from the UN Secretariat on the extensive plans it is making to deal with a possible humanitarian crisis. We are in regular contact with the key UN relief agencies and we participated in the humanitarian conference on Iraq which was held in Geneva on 15 and 16 February on the initiative of the Swiss Government. In addition we have been in communication with NGOs which are also engaged in preparedness planning. In this way we are forming an overall picture of the kind of circumstances which may present themselves and of the response which would be required of us.
Ireland Aid has committed €6.8 million to UNHCR and €8 million to UNICEF for their global operations in 2003. These funds are not earmarked in order that they can be utilised quickly and effectively for emergency and humanitarian planning and rapid responses in situations prioritised by these agencies. A further €750,000 was released to the United Nations office for the co-ordination of humanitarian activities – UNOCHA – to facilitate that agency in its planning for prioritised humanitarian emergencies.
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Kitt, has recently approved an initiative to assist key Irish NGOs in their rapid deployment to address prioritised humanitarian emergencies. This will be of relevance to the NGOs' involvement in any humanitarian relief operations relating to Iraq.
While I fervently hope that the issue of Iraqi disarmament can be solved in a peaceful manner, Ireland Aid remains ready to respond to the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Iraqis in the event of an outbreak of hostilities.
Dáil Éireann 562 Written Answers Foreign Conflicts.