Haiti

Government pledges emergency assistance for Haiti earthquake victims

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The Government has announced emergency humanitarian assistance for those affected by the devastating earthquake which struck Haiti yesterday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is working to establish the number of Irish citizens who may have been affected and is in close contact with the US Administration, other EU Member States and Irish organisations with links to Haiti.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin stated this morning:

"Reports reaching us from Haiti indicate the horrific extent of the destruction caused by this earthquake. Our immediate thoughts are with the people of Haiti and all those who have lost family and friends in this terrible tragedy.

Minister Martin emphasised the urgency of a coordinated international response, led by the United Nations. "The Government has already pre-positioned emergency funding with the UN Central Emergency Response Fund for immediate use. We are ready to commit additional funding as required, and are consulting with the main NGOs on the release of emergency funds."

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power TD confirmed that members of the Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps were on standby to assist with emergency operations, if required. He stated:

"Ireland is one of the leading international donors for UN emergency operations. We have also been in contact this morning with NGOs, including Concern and Goal, to expedite the release of emergency funding for their response. In addition, we are ready to make emergency funding available for medical assistance, shelter, food and other support to those whose homes and lives have been devastated by this earthquake. Irish Aid will continue to monitor the situation closely to determine how our assistance can most effectively be channelled."

Minister Martin stated that the Consular Assistance Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs has been in direct contact with Irish companies and organisations operating in Haiti, and with Secretary of State Clinton's Office at the US State Department, which has established a Disaster Assistance Response Team in Haiti. The US has offered assistance in locating any Irish citizens who may have been affected. The Department is also coordinating its efforts with EU partners and will participate in a teleconference of national crisis management units which the Spanish Presidency is organising this morning.

If any member of the public is concerned about a family member they should contact the Consular Assistance Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs on (01)4082000.

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 volunteers 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.

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