Aid chief fears effects of austerity


THE DIRECTOR of the World Food Programme in Ghana has expressed concern that austerity measures in the West, coupled with economic uncertainty, will see a decline in aid to the developing world and damage the organisation’s ability to respond to emergencies.

Ismail Omer was speaking after a meeting with Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello in the Ghanaian capital of Accra yesterday. Mr Costello was in the city as part of a week-long tour of Western Africa.

His arrival coincided with the sending of an Irish Aid shipment of shelter, water and sanitation equipment to help thousands of refugees affected by the severe crisis in the Sahel region in recent months.

Mr Omer told The Irish Times he recognised funding was likely to become a pressing issue in the months ahead as the Irish Government sought to find new areas where it could make cuts, but he stressed such issues were not unique to the Republic.

“It is not only Ireland which is facing such problems. It is a problem throughout Europe and the United States. It is a dilemma we all face but despite the challenges we need to continue to provide a voice for the voiceless.”

On a tour of the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Accra Mr Costello announced an additional €200,000 in funding to cover its running costs and additional training for staff.

The depot is part of a wider UN international network. Irish Aid stores emergency equipment such as shelter, water and sanitation and healthcare supplies for rapid dispatch to disaster areas.

“Ireland has moved quickly to respond to the emergency in the Sahel region,” Mr Costello said. “Since the beginning of the year I have authorised more than €9 million in funding to assist the humanitarian relief efforts there.”

“As the crisis deepens more than 160,000 refugees in Northern Mali have fled the ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces.

“They are now in camps in Burkina Faso whose own people are also facing the full brunt of the food crisis.

“The supplies of tents, blankets, mosquito nets and water-storage equipment which Ireland is sending today will be used by Plan Ireland to help thousands of Malian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.”