Government deploys specialist emergency team to Haiti

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The Government is to send a team of experts to Haiti to assist in the international emergency effort in the wake of this week's devastating earthquake.

The technical team, which will be drawn from Irish Aid, the Government's programme for overseas development, will initially be charged with assessing needs on the ground, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin and Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power announced today.

"This team, whose members are highly-experienced in emergency situations, will initially assess the immediate needs of the Haitian people and identify short-term gaps in the overall response.

"They will also examine the medium to longer-term requirements in terms of recovery and rehabilitation and liaise with the United Nations, other international donors and our NGO partners on the ground to ensure that aid is being delivered to those who need it most as quickly and effectively as possible," the Ministers said.

Minister Martin said, "Irish Aid deployed a technical team to Asia in the wake of the Asian Tsunami in 2004 and they proved highly-effective in ensuring that our aid was delivered in a targeted manner and did not duplicate the efforts of other donors.

The team who will deploy to Haiti over the coming days will be charged with the same mission and their assessments will feed into Ireland's ongoing support to the people of Haiti who have suffered such devastating losses".

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power also confirmed that Irish Aid will deploy specialists from its Rapid Reaction Corps to assist in the response to the Haiti earthquake.

UN agencies coordinating the disaster response have requested specialist staff in areas including logistics, telecommunications and sanitation.

"We have received a request from the main UN agencies in Haiti for a small number of highly-specialised personnel," Minister Power said.

"We are working closely with UNICEF, the World Food Programme and others to identify the kind of skills needed in Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. The problem is not one of numbers - there are plenty of people available from Haiti and the immediate region. What the UN needs is people with specific skill-sets. In most cases we have identified people on our roster of Rapid Response Corps volunteers who meet their requirements."

The announcement is in addition to the €2m additional emergency funding pledged by the Irish Government yesterday. This money will be channelled through the United Nations and Irish aid agencies working in the region.

Minister Power confirmed that Irish Aid would immediately release €250,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross as part of this support. The funding will assist the Haitian National Red Cross Society in providing emergency medical care, as well as in distributing shelter supplies and water and sanitation equipment.

Irish Aid is also in close contact with Irish NGOs Concern and Goal to identify their funding needs.

Following requests from Concern and Goal this morning, Irish Aid will also release emergency supplies from its stockpiles which will be air-freighted to the disaster zone. These will directly assist 3,000 families and include plastic sheeting for temporary shelter and jerry cans to store water.

"This assistance is in addition to the €20 million of pre-positioned funding which Irish Aid allocated to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund last year and which is being drawn down to support the UN response to this terrible tragedy," he said.

Note for Editors

Ireland committed €20m to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in 2009. The CERF provides rapid funding to emergencies and disasters such as that in Haiti. Ireland is the 7th largest contributor having committed €73m since 2006. Irish Aid also pre-positions emergency funding with NGO partners such as Goal, Concern and Trócaire in order to allow for quick disbursal in emergency situations.

The Irish Rapid Response Corp consists of 130 personnel with specialised skills in areas such as logistics, engineering and public health, which can prove vital in responding to emergency and humanitarian situations. In addition, Irish Aid has pre-positioned emergency supplies such as tents, blankets and water and sanitation equipment in depots around the globe which can be called upon in an emergency.

In 2009, Irish Aid allocated funding of approximately €1 million to civil society partners working in Haiti. This included more than €900,000 to Concern, and smaller amounts to missionary personnel. Haiti is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, and Irish Aid has responded to a number of emergency situations in the past, including a devastating series of hurricanes in 2008.

For further information or to arrange an interview with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, please contact Jerry O'Connor on 01-4082279 or 087- 6630338.

For further information or to arrange an interview with Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power, please contact Fionnuala Quinlan, press officer, Irish Aid on 01-4082653 or 087-9099975.