Government pledges €5m for Sahel


The Government is to provide €5 million in funding for emergency relief in the Sahel region of West Africa, where 10 million people are at risk from a food crisis.

The money is being made available to support the relief activities of major UN agencies, the Red Cross and non-government organisations. It will help in the provision of emergency food assistance to malnourished children and adults.

Aid agencies are already warning that the current crisis is one of the worst to face the region in years, said Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello. Last year, despite warnings, many governments and aid organisations failed to respond early enough to the crisis in the Horn of Africa,” he said. “If we do not act decisively now, millions of people in the Sahel will die and a crisis will become a catastrophe.

Meanwhile, EU commissioner for humanitarian aid Kristalina Georgieva said today Ireland is in a key position to contribute to “smart aid” – the linking of development aid to measures which build community “resilience”.

Ms Georgieva, who is in Dublin today to address Irish Aid and attend a session of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, told The Irish Times she has a three-fold message for Irish authorities.

“The first is one of gratitude to the Irish people for maintaining their commitment to supporting development aid,” she said. The second message was that Ireland’s commitment was “relevant and strong” while the third was that Ireland’s EU presidency in 2013 offered an opportunity to focus EU efforts on development aid.

Ms Georgieva, who acknowledged former president Mary Robinson’s work linking development measures and climate change, said EU development work should focus on building resilience in communities. She said many of the countries which were fragile in terms of conflict were also fragile to natural disasters from elements such as the weather. Therefore when disasters happen communities are easily wiped out.

“Smart aid” was the type of aid which would supply vital, life-saving nourishment immediately – but also consider sourcing it from developing countries elsewhere. The former vice president of the World Bank said efforts were also being made to promote growth and to build homes which were weather resistant and where excess waters could be channelled for irrigation.

She said Ireland had a good reputation in this area and particularly in emergency aid to identify the danger of and prevent malnutrition.

Ms Georgieva said some 950 million people around the world are regularly going hungry.

Ms Georgieva also described the early identification of malnutrition risk as smart aid. “It saves money for other noble causes," she said. "It costs €20 [per child] to prevent malnutrition. It costs €100 to treat it."