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Minister announces dispatch of emergency supplies to respond to crisis in Sahel, West Africa

Irish Aid, Press Releases, Africa, 2012

The Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello TD, today witnessed the dispatch of an Irish Aid shipment of shelter, water and sanitation equipment to help thousands of vulnerable refugees in West Africa who have been affected by the severe food crisis in the Sahel region.

The Minister made the announcement as he toured the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Accra, Ghana during his official visit to three countries in West Africa to see the impact of Ireland’s aid programme this week.

The Ghana depot is part of a wider UNHRD international network, in which Ireland stores emergency humanitarian equipment such as shelter, water and sanitation, and health care supplies for rapid dispatch to disaster areas.

Minister Costello said:

“Fifteen million people in the Sahel Region of West Africa are at serious risk of hunger following this year’s disappointing rainy season. Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal are worst-hit, with the UN estimating that more than $1 billion is needed to respond to the urgent needs of affected communities."

“As the crisis in the Sahel region deepens, more than 160,000 refugees in northern Mali have fled the ongoing conflict between government and rebels forces. They are now in camps in Burkina Faso, whose own people are also facing the full brunt of the food crisis.  The supplies of tents, blankets, mosquito nets and water storage equipment which Ireland is sending today will be used by Plan Ireland to help thousands of Malian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes."

“Ireland has moved quickly to respond to the emergency in the Sahel region. Since the beginning of this year I have authorised more than €9 million in funding to assist in the humanitarian relief efforts there, including €4.25million in funding to the UN and agencies which I announced in May."

During his visit, Minister Costello also authorised €200,000 in funding to support the ongoing operational costs of the UN depot in Accra.

“This depot, which is the UN’s main supply base for the West Africa region, plays an important role in Ireland’s Rapid Response Initiative. It enables us to react faster and more effectively to humanitarian emergencies when they occur in West Africa. The €200,000 in funding will contribute to the ongoing operational costs of the depot and assist in the completion of a training facility.

“In 2011 Ireland availed of the services of the UN hub network for emergencies including the food crisis in Somalia and Kenya, refugee crises in Syria and North Africa (Libya), and natural disasters in the Philippines and Turkey. 2012 has already proven to be a challenging year for those of us involved in emergency relief operations and we envisage that our pre-positioned stocks will continue to form a vital component of Ireland’s humanitarian response capacity.”

Ireland holds approximately €400,000 worth of stocks at the depot in Accra, including tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, soap, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, large water tanks and jerry cans.

Following his visit to the UNHRD the Minister will travel to Liberia where he will visit programmes funded by Irish Aid, before returning to Ireland on Friday. 

For further information or to request an interview with Minister Costello, please contact Fionnuala Quinlan, Press Officer, Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 087-9099975.

 

Notes to the editor

-          Irish Aid is the Government’s programme of overseas assistance. It is managed by the Development Cooperation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

-          Minister Costello visited Sierra Leone from Friday, June 1 to Tuesday June 5. He travelled to Ghana on Tuesday June 5 until Wednesday June 6. He will travel to Liberia from Wednesday June 6 until Friday June 8.

-          The emergency in the Sahel region has been compounded in northern Mali by the conflict between Government forces and separatist rebels and where some 335,000 people have been displaced. 

-          Ireland maintains emergency stocks within the UNHRD located in or close to crisis prone parts of the world. Through this network Irish Aid pre-positions emergency supplies in Panama, Dubai, Malaysia and Italy, as well as in Ghana (Accra).

-          Irish Aid’s Rapid Response Initiative was established in September 2006. The initiative includes the pre-positioning and transportation of humanitarian supplies to disaster areas through the UN Humanitarian Response Depot network and the establishment of a Rapid Response Corps.

-          The Rapid Response Corps is a roster of skilled and experienced volunteers available at short notice to deploy to humanitarian emergencies overseas.

-          Minister Costello announced €4.25 million in emergency funding last month to provide emergency food, water and healthcare to communities affected by the severe drought in the Sahel region. This is in addition to the €5 million in emergency funding that was announced in February this year to support relief efforts in the region.