Minister of State Conor Lenihan T.D. welcomes the gathering international response to the food crisis in Africa

from Government of Ireland
Published on 04 Mar 2006
"Ireland at the forefront of response to the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa" -- Conor Lenihan
Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister of State for Development Cooperation and Human Rights, today welcomed the gathering international response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The Minister said:

"Media coverage in recent days has carried out a valuable humanitarian service by putting the international spotlight on the crisis in the Horn of Africa region. I reiterate that it is unacceptable in this day and age for the scenes we have witnessed on our televisions to be occurring in Africa.

"Ireland is at the forefront of international efforts to both respond swiftly to humanitarian needs, but also to find lasting solutions to these types of crises, particularly in Africa.

I would point to a number of important initiatives which we are undertaking in this area:-

- Ireland responded swiftly to the Horn of Africa humanitarian crisis which we have seen developing over recent weeks and months. In particular, early last month, I approved €5 million in direct support to the affected region. This has now been disbursed to our partner Irish NGOs, UN Agencies and the International Red Cross. I recognised at the time that speedy and well focused assistance from the international community was of the essence and it continues to be vital that the international community pull together to respond to this emergency.

- In addition to the directed package of €5 million to the Horn of Africa crisis, I have also recently approved a contribution of €10 million to the UN's new Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). One of the main objectives of the CERF is to save lives by providing immediate funding for initial life-saving assistance during the early days of an emergency. The CERF is designed to provide agencies with a pool of funding available immediately at the onset of an emergency so that our UN partners do not need to spend valuable time mobilising funding when they should be responding directly to the crisis.

- I also last week approved funding of €19 million to the UN Consolidated Appeals for ten humanitarian emergencies in Africa. This is emergency assistance for basic humanitarian needs like clean water, sanitation, food aid and basic shelter. It is funding projects aimed at the most needy in the most desperate humanitarian situations across Africa.

- What we are seeing in these situations is the impact of climactic phenomena like drought, desertification, and flooding combining with the impact of HIV/AIDS on the productive capacity and livelihoods of individuals across huge swathes of sub-Saharan Africa as well as the effects of conflict in a number of countries. These underlying, multiple threats to survival combine to challenge the ability of poor communities to withstand even small changes in their environment like inadequate rainy seasons.

- These crises are proliferating and their crises are complex. In many cases, they are not simply sudden-onset food shortages but rather are the result of multiple threats to life and livelihoods which have been developing over recent years in these countries.

- I also announced last week some €7.5 million in assistance to key partner organisations in recovery situations in a number of countries. Even while humanitarian crisis continues, communities are being assisted to develop preventive strategies and to strengthen their own coping abilities. In the longer term, these types of initiatives are designed to prevent situations getting out of control by giving poor communities the tools and capacity to prevent natural disasters affecting their livelihoods in such extreme ways as we are currently seeing in countries like Kenya.

- The successive and growing food crises affecting so many regions in Africa must be tackled in a collaborative way by the international community as a whole. It is simply not acceptable in the 21st century that so many of the world's poor face such acute vulnerability and threats to survival. Therefore, Ireland is deeply engaged in the Good Humanitarian Donorship initiative to bring key donors, of which Ireland is one, together with UN Agencies and NGOs to identify ways to improve humanitarian responses to crises.