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Ireland reiterates continuing commitment to Horn of Africa relief effort

Emergencies, News/feature, Horn of Africa, Somalia, 2011

The Minister of State for Trade and Development Jan O’Sullivan TD has reiterated the Government’s commitment to aiding the people of Somalia and the Horn of Africa, following the United Nations’ declaration of a famine in the region.

The Government is providing €5.6 million in relief, which is the largest contribution to a single emergency from the Government in 2011. The Government has also fielded 11 members of its highly-skilled Rapid Response Corps to the region to directly assist in humanitarian operations.

“The scenes we are witnessing from Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa are harrowing,” Minister O’Sullivan said.

“There are literally millions of people at risk of starvation in some of the most hostile conditions imaginable. More than 78,000 Somalis have fled the country in the last two months, and 61,000 in June alone. This is putting an enormous strain on neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya which have opened their borders to the influx of the displaced and starving.”

Malnutrition rates in Somalia are the highest in the world, with more than 300,000 malnourished children in the south of the country. However, humanitarian agencies have been hampered in their attempts to provide relief by the effects of Somalia’s long-running civil war with a ban on their presence by rebel movement Al Shabaab only lifted in the past few days.

The Government, through Irish Aid, is supporting Concern to provide food rations for 10,000 people and treat 1,800 malnourished children in some of the worst affected areas of Somalia.

Support is also being provided to the UN World Food Programme to dramatically increase the distribution of highly-nutritious foodstuffs to young children and pregnant women, and other vulnerable groups.  Irish Aid is also assisting the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide shelter, healthcare, water and sanitation to Somali refugees fleeing to Ethiopia and Kenya. 

“The Government’s priority is to save lives and we are in ongoing contact with our partners in the region to assess how best to target Irish assistance,” said Minister O’Sullivan.

“We are particularly concerned about the situation of people within Somalia, who are at risk of starvation and are actively examining options for further support.”

Minister of State O’Sullivan highlighted the situation in Horn of Africa with her EU counterparts at a meeting of Development Ministers in Poland late last week, while Irish Aid officials attended an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday to work on a joint EU approach to the crisis.

July 20, 2011

Notes to the editor

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