Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power, today underscored Ireland's swift and coordinated response to the Haitian disaster and pledged that the Government would continue to support the Haitian people.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of EU Development Ministers in Brussels, Minister Power outlined Ireland's contribution to the United Nation's disaster relief fund of €20 million, from which the UN is drawing down in response to the Haiti crisis. In addition, Ireland is providing €2 million which is being channelled directly through Irish NGOs and UN humanitarian agencies. Additionally, a consignment of over 80 tons of essential humanitarian supplies is being freighted to Haiti today; this is one of the largest consignments of humanitarian supplies ever provided directly by Ireland.
"Ireland drew strongly on the lessons we learned as a result of our engagement with the Asian Tsunami in 2004 to respond swiftly and in a targeted manner to the crisis in Haiti.
It is crucial that the EU as a whole also learns from this experience and does not repeat some of the mistakes that were made in the aftermath of the tsunami.
We must work together in a coordinated manner and focus on putting small teams of highly-skilled and experienced people on the ground. In addition to the vital funding and supplies we are committing, these people will play a crucial role in coordinating the aid effort and ensuring that our aid gets to those who need it most in the shortest possible time.
Our joint effort in assisting the people of Haiti is an important early test of the EU's response mechanisms post-Lisbon. We must coordinate and act as a real global leader," said Minister Power, speaking after the meeting at which the EU pledged €122 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to Haiti.
On the issue of medium to long-term funding for the recovery and rehabilitation effort in Haiti, Minister Power said:
"A needs assessment is currently ongoing so it is not possible or credible at this stage to say what the long-term requirements will be.
However, I want to send a simple message to the people of Haiti whose lives have been devastated by this disaster: Ireland will not be found wanting. We are committed to supporting the reconstruction phase.
Already, the Government of Ireland has pledged €2 million to support the immediate search and recovery phase and is deploying two highly-skilled members of Ireland's Rapid Response Corps to assist the World Food Programme and others are on standby and are expected to be called upon over the coming days and weeks.
Also today, a consignment of over 80 tonnes of essential supplies is being freighted to Haiti. The consignment of mosquito nets, plastic shelters and water tanks will be given to Irish NGOs working on the ground to distribute to 8,000 families in need.
A small, highly-experienced technical team from Irish Aid will travel to Haiti as soon as conditions permit. They will report back to me on the short-term gaps in the overall international response and how Ireland can best contribute. They will also assess the medium-term requirements in terms of recovery and rehabilitation," Minister Power said.
"The fact that Ireland had pre-positioned €20 million with the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund which could be drawn down immediately and had stockpiled essential emergency supplies which are now being sent to Haiti demonstrates the importance of pre-planning in responding to natural disasters such as this," Minister Power said.
He congratulated the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton and the Spanish Presidency of the EU for convening today's meeting to coordinate the EU response.
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, please contact Fionnuala Quinlan, press officer, Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs on 01-4082653 or 087-9099975. For further information on the Government's overseas aid programme, visit www.dfa.ie and www.irishaid.gov.ie
18 January 2010