Thursday, 15 June 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
92. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which international aid and relief agencies are able to assist in the Horn of Africa; if the logistics are in place to meet requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17023/00]
93. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the international community has put in place the necessary measures to alleviate hunger and famine in Ethiopia; the extent to which Ireland has been influential in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17024/00]
The situation in the Horn of Africa continues to be of concern. The drought and consequent food shortages affecting the region due to three consecutive years of poor rainfall have left 16 million people in need of assistance. Pastoral areas of the sub-region, including south-eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and several parts of Somalia, have been particularly affected.
However, there is now a sustained international effort under way, under the leadership of the United Nations, to address the needs. The UN launched an emergency consolidated appeal for the region last week, seeking $377 million to tackle food shortages as well as provide medicine, safe water, food and livestock. The appeal covers 13.4 million people in the five most affected countries, namely Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya. With the launch of the appeal, the United Nations country teams in each of these countries are increasing their capacity to deal with the emergency. It is generally agreed that the effects of the drought can be contained if the required resources are committed in time. These resources are relatively modest compared to what would be needed if the current crisis were allowed to degenerate into widespread famine. The international response to the needs identified in January has been generous with much of the food needed being pledged. It is hoped that a similarly generous response will be forthcoming in light of this emergency appeal.
With regard to Ethiopia, the delivery of emergency food continues. As of 6 June, 86% of the 836,000 mt of food aid for 7.7 million people requested by the Ethiopian government in January had been resourced. The food is being channelled through WFP, NGOs and by direct pledges to the government. During the Minister of State's recent visit to Ethiopia, she was assured that sufficient food was pledged by the international community to meet the needs identified in January. However, with the new UN appeal the numbers requiring assistance have been revised upwards.
Ireland has played its part in ensuring that the needs of the vulnerable people are addressed and in ensuring that all necessary measures are taken to alleviate hunger in this part of the world. I have raised the issue at the EU General Affairs Council and the Minister of State has been actively involved in raising awareness of the severity of the crisis through her visit to Ethiopia. The Minister of State has availed of every opportunity to press for the necessary measures to be taken to alleviate the suffering of the people of the Horn of Africa.
While logistical problems hampered the relief programme in the beginning, in particular in relation to providing sufficient food aid to Ethi opia, those problems are now being addressed. The capacity of Djibouti port, through which the majority of food aid for Ethiopia is routed, has been increased and additional trucks made available to the relief effort. Measures have been taken to maintain the roads both from the ports to the primary distribution centres and from there to the regions. The UN World Food Programme has established a logistics cell in cooperation with the government's technical coordination committee to supervise and guide the logistics operation, port management and ship scheduling, and short and long haul trucking. As part of efforts to ensure the successful provision of adequate humanitarian assistance to those affected by the drought, the current UN appeal is seeking funding for a large-scale logistics operation including common transport, communications and safety systems in the region.
The Ethiopian Emergency Food Security Reserve was created in 1992 as a means of ensuring that sufficient food would be available in-country to address any food shortages that may arise. In the intervening years the Government of Ethiopia has, with the help of donors, including the EU, built up the capacity of the EFSR so that there is now the potential to store 400,000 mt of food in-country. While the EFSR stocks were somewhat depleted earlier this year, the international community has begun to replenish them, thus ensuring food can be prepositioned in remote areas before the expected arrival of the July rains. WFP and the Ethiopian Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Committee hope to preposition approximately 77,000 mt of food in seriously-affected and difficult to access areas before the end of June. The creation of the EFSR is one of a number of measures being put in place to build local capacities and therefore to mitigate and prevent similar levels of distress from recurrent drought conditions in this part of the world.
The Irish Government has been consistent in its support for those suffering throughout the region. In the case of Ethiopia, since December 1999, £1,333,000 from the emergency humanitarian aid budget has been committed to address the crisis. This money has been channelled through the UN world food programme and the Irish NGOs Concern, GOAL and Trócaire. In addition, £2 million from the Ireland Aid budget for long-term development projects in Ethiopia has been re-orientated to emergency relief, bringing Ireland's total contribution in response to the crisis in Ethiopia to £3,333,000. In Eritrea, a total of £250,000 has been allocated to WFP since last December. Funds have also been contributed to address the needs in Northern Kenya, with £107,400 being disbursed through WFP and the Holy Ghost Fathers. In Somalia, where over six hundred and fifty thousand people are experiencing severe food and water shortages, the Government has disbursed £340,000 through WFP, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Trócaire for drought relief projects. In total  £4,030,400 has been contributed by the Irish Government to assist in the drought relief effort in the region.
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