Over €150m provided to developing countries to deal with Covid last year

Ethiopia has been the largest recipient of Irish aid in recent years

Patients queue prior to being vaccinated in Uganda, one of the countries which received aid from Ireland in 2020. File photograph: Luke Dray/Getty

Ireland contributed over €150million to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic in developing countries, as part of a global response to Covid-19 in 2020.

According to the Irish Aid annual report, published on Wednesday, approximately €55 million of this went to the UN, the WHO, other international organisations, NGOs and partner countries in a direct response to the pandemic.

Ireland was one of the first countries in the world last year to support the WHO’s urgent appeal for funding to assist low and middle income countries in preparing a response to the crisis.

Hospital Report

A further €93 million of other funding was fast-tracked to help mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. Ireland also contributed to the EU’s global response to Covid-19 which at the end of 2020 involved over €38 billion.


It supported organisations such as the Global Alliance on Vaccines and

Immunisation (GAVI) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which have been key to accelerating the development and production of Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, as well as equitable access to them.

Overall, this State’s spend on overseas development aid last year was €867 million, of which €545 million was managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The remaining €322 million was allocated through the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Finance, and through Ireland’s contribution to the EU Development Co-operation Budget.

Development and humanitarian work

Meanwhile, Irish Aid’s existing development and humanitarian work continued despite the pandemic, with €192m spent on humanitarian assistance globally in 2020 for crises not related to Covid-19.

‘A Better World’, Ireland’s policy for international development, identifies four core areas for Irish Aid support: gender equality; humanitarian need; climate action; strengthening governance and rights.

The 10 ten countries to receive Irish Aid support in 2020 were: Ethiopia (€39.6m), Mozambique (€25.7m), Tanzania (€22.9m), Uganda (€22.7m), Malawi (€20.8m), Sierra Leone (€14.6m), Zimbabwe (€8.7m), Palestine (€8.6m), South Sudan (€8.6m).

Ethiopia has been the largest recipient of Irish Aid funds over the past five years during which time it received €165 million in development support from this State.

Nevertheless, on November 24th last, it expelled four of six Irish diplomats from the country because of Ireland’s stance on the conflict in that country.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said this was because Ireland has been to the forefront of calling for meetings of the UN security council on Ethiopia and has pushed for council statements on the conflict there, since joining the 15-member body in January.

“Ireland has been shining a spotlight on things that have been happening in Ethiopia that really are breaches of international law and are of serious humanitarian and human rights concern,” Mr Coveney said.

“We’ve already had unfortunately a lot of death and a lot of killing in Ethiopia this year, but it could get an awful lot worse in the next few weeks ... and that is why, unfortunately, the Ethiopian government has decided to target Ireland,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs advised Irish citizens in Ethiopia to leave the country immediately and said those planning to visit should not do so.

In October 2020 the Department of Foreign Affairs established a new Climate

Unit to support communities adapt to the effects of climate change in least developed countries and small island developing states, while protecting the ocean and promoting a sustainable blue economy.

Aid from Ireland is monitored by and reported on by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee and its 2020 peer review report concluded that "Ireland is widely seen as an excellent partner, providing quality financing and supporting its investments with a presence on key partner bodies such as boards and donor support groups ."

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times