"At a time when most of us are preoccupied with summer holidays, it puts things into stark perspective to realise that a staggering seven million people are under threat of starvation over the coming weeks and months in Southern Africa. Worse again, it is reliably estimated that this figure could rise to nearly thirteen million by next March. The Government has, therefore, decided to take further action so that Irish and other relief agencies can plan ahead and address the food crisis as it deepens".
The funding announced today by Minister Kitt covers Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Mozambique and is being provided to build on the Government's initial response to the food crisis which amounted to 1.5 million. Ireland's total support, which after today amounts to over 5 million, is being complemented by ongoing political action. Minister Kitt confirmed that,
"I will have an opportunity to generate further momentum in the international response to this crisis when I discuss it with Commissioner Poul Nielson in Brussels next week. I know that the substantial action he is actively supporting at Commission level reflects our strong position. The EU has a pivotal role to play in helping to avert this looming humanitarian catastrophe - I will be strongly advocating this together with Minister Cowen at General Affairs Council level".
Minister Kitt added,
" I am making the necessary preparations for a visit to the region so that I can witness the work of Ireland Aid, Irish NGOs and our other implementing partners first hand".
Note to Editors:
The Government is working closely with other members of the international community to develop strategies on how immediate food needs across Southern Africa may best be addressed at both the national and regional levels.
- A Declaration on the Food Crisis in Southern Africa was adopted at the EU Development Council in Brussels on 30th May at Ireland's initiative.
- Minister Brian Cowen raised the matter with other EU Ministers at the meeting of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 17th June.
- Ireland took part in the special Regional Meeting on Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa hosted jointly by the WFP and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Johannesburg on 6-7 June.
Funding of 0.65m in support of programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola was also approved by Minister Kitt today. This brings the Government's total humanitarian support for Angola this year to 2.7 m and that for DRC to 1.9m.