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Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 101. Mr. Shatter Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  the steps being taken here and by the European Union to ensure that food aid is provided efficiently to the inhabitants of Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan; the initiatives taken by him to date at either European Union or United Nations level to ensure their plight is properly addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3806/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen The Government is strongly committed to supporting the vulnerable people of Afghanistan. This support involves the ongoing provision of emergency humanitarian assistance and support for the process of national reconstruction in that country. Ireland has played a key role in ensuring the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has been kept to the fore alongside the political aspects, including at the UN Security Council. In its ongoing contacts at the UN, within the EU and at other fora, the Government is emphasising that there must be a visible and effective strategy for meeting the needs of more than 5 million people in Afghanistan who still require humanitarian assistance.

The images we have seen of hunger in the Hindu Kush region highlight the urgency of this task. The crisis in the village of Bonawash in the Zarah district at the foot of the Hindu Kush mountains has been addressed jointly by the World Food Programme and the International Rescue Committee. The work of both these organisations is being supported by the Government. WFP carried out an assessment of the level of aid needed in the region and IRC dispatched doctors to provide medical assistance. Donkeys were used to deliver essential supplies across dangerous mountain terrain by workers employed locally. An initial distribution of food [1599] aid took place in the Zarah district on 6 January. Further supplies are being provided to ensure that people will have enough food to survive the harsh winter. WFP are also accessing the most remote highland areas by helicopter in response to acute food shortages.

During 2001, a total of €5.08 million was provided by the Government in official humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. This commitment was enhanced by an Irish ministerial attendance at the international conference on reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan in Tokyo in January of this year. At this conference I made a pledge of €12 million in reconstruction assistance on behalf of the Irish people. These funds will be made available in the coming three years. This pledge is in addition to our ongoing emergency relief and recovery assistance, which combined with our reconstruction commitments, is likely to see our support to Afghanistan during 2002 exceed that provided last year.

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