Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Ireland's aid boost for millions

Seven developing countries in Sub Saharan Africa will benefit from Irish Aid this year

Ireland is bearing witness to the legacy of the famine by tackling hunger and nutrition in some of the poorest countries in the world, it has been claimed.

Life-saving health facilities, schools, farms and small businesses are also being supported across Sub Saharan Africa, where millions of people are struggling to survive.

Up to 623 million euro will this year be donated in overseas aid, the majority through Irish Aid to NGOs and nine developing countries including 37.5 million euro - the single biggest pay-out - to help Mozambique get it back on its feet.

About a million people were killed during a brutal 16-year civil war which ravaged the east African country until a peace deal was struck in 1992. The economy, hospitals, schools and infrastructure were destroyed, while thousands of landmines are still being cleared from the countryside. Floods recently devastated parts of the country, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Minister Joe Costello said that despite the tightening of purse strings in households and by Government, Irish people still want to give generously to others less well off.

"If we look at the population of Mozambique, 50% survive, they don't live they survive, on less than half a dollar a day," said the Dublin TD. "In terms of poverty there's no comparison. The same with other countries we're involved in. They're chosen because they are among the seven poorest in the world.

"We still have hundreds of millions of people who go to bed hungry, there's still huge numbers of infant and maternal mortality, there's people dying from HIV and Aids and there's huge catastrophes taking place."

Ireland was last year forced to defend its oversees aid budget after four million euro was siphoned off in Uganda where officials colluded in an "sophisticated and elaborate" fraud. Tougher measures were put in place because of the scandal, which was linked to staff from the prime minister's office, the finance department, including the treasury, and the Bank of Uganda.

But Mr Costello maintained the controversy was a good example of how practices, regulations and training put in place by Irish Aid works as the country's own auditor general spotted the fraud right up to the office of Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who denied any knowledge of missing money.

During a recent two week visit to South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique, Mr Costello said he saw how first hand donations are being spent and was satisfied money is being used effectively in dealing with humanitarian crisis, like famine and drought, to putting preventable measure in place. "Particularly the emphasis on nutrition and hunger, where there's that legacy that comes to bear from the times of the famine to the present," added the minister of state for trade and development.

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