O'Donnell emphasises humanitarian dimension to Afghan crisis
Speaking during the Dáil debate this evening on the situation following the attacks on America on September 11, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Liz O'Donnell T.D, addressed the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
The Minister, who has special responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance and Human Rights, opened by saying that:
"In the aftermath of the appalling attacks against the people of the United States, the protracted humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has received renewed international attention. The world is now having to contend with a crisis of international terrorism alongside a looming humanitarian disaster".
The Minister then outlined to the Dáil the difficulties that the Afghan people have faced for several years:
"In focussing on the humanitarian dimension, we should recognise that there have been many contributory factors and that these date from long before 11th September and its aftermath. Twenty-three years of conflict have been aggravated by the last three years of severe drought. This has created a legacy of suffering, uprooted families, human rights abuse, poverty and starvation for the Afghan people.
Minister O'Donnell outlined the problems posed for ordinary Afghans in the coming months as winter approaches:
"Even without the repercussions of the dark events of September, the prospects for these people were being worsened by a threat of nature - the bleak winter during which temperatures plummet to below minus fifteen degrees and entire localities become inaccessible.
In stressing the critical nature of the situation and the importance of an urgent response the Minister said:
"The international community effectively has until the middle of November to put the necessary emergency stocks in place before winter sets in. We must reinvigorate our efforts of last year when wide-scale starvation was averted through the assistance which Ireland and other donors provided. It is essential that we build rapidly on the incremental success of aid agencies, including Irish NGOs, in restoring essential food supplies to Kabul and other locations.
The consequences of failure to achieve this were outlined by the Minister who informed the house that:
"... the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that three to five million people are likely to starve unless food supplies get through in the near future."
Minister O'Donnell then outlined the aid package that the Government has put in place in response to the humanitarian situation;
"The Government has been responding with continued emergency assistance. The package of £2.8 million which the Government announced this week is the biggest ever for a single emergency. This reflects the enormous gravity of this crisis. It reflects also the importance which the Government and Irish people attach to finding a lasting solution to this protracted humanitarian tragedy.
The Minister also drew attention to the fact that Ireland Aid had been providing assistance to Afghanistan prior to September 11.
"Last October, we decided to support the work of the World Food Programme, the International Red Cross & Red Crescent and Christian Aid Ireland in Afghanistan and to give the then "forgotten emergency" ongoing priority. We provided initially £1.6 million in support of emergency programmes. This week we have added £2.8 million. This brings our assistance to Afghanistan to a total of £4 million during 2001
The Minister concluded by promising that the situation will be raised by Ireland at EU level next week;
"In addition to pursuing these issues bilaterally and at UN level, the Government will also raise them at the special meeting of EU Development Ministers which has been called for 10th October. This will discuss how the EU can best respond to humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and how development support can create the necessary conditions for a lasting, inclusive peace in that country."Top