Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Department of Foreign Affairs
Question 678: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the recent earthquake in Haiti, he will assist and make a funding contribution for aid for the victims affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1848/10]
On Tuesday, 12 January, at approximately 16:53h local time, an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale was recorded off the coast of Haiti, only 17km from the capital Port au Prince. Casualties are believed to be in the tens of thousands and widespread destruction of infrastructure has been reported, including to schools and hospitals. Water and electricity supplies are down, and there is very limited communication. I am deeply saddened by these events and I join with the President in expressing the condolences of the Irish people to the nation of Haiti.
A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team arrived in Haiti last week. Other emergency teams from, amongst others, the UN, Red Cross, and Non-governmental Organisation have also been flooding into the country over the past few days. It is apparent that a major relief effort is required and immediate priorities include search and rescue, emergency medical assistance, shelter, clean water, food and sanitation equipment.
Yesterday I attended an emergency meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council at which Ministers agreed an initial response of €122 million to meet Haiti's short term humanitarian needs. Ireland has contributed €2 million, including €1 million to an urgent appeal launched by the UN on 15 January. The remainder will be disbursed via NGOs operating in Haiti and the Red Cross - to whom we have already disbursed €250,000.
In addition to our financial support Ireland today dispatched approximately 83 tonnes of essential humanitarian supplies from our emergency stockpiles. These supplies of plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets, soap, and water containers will provide essential necessities for 8,000 families. These Government stocks will be given to Concern and Goal for distribution through their operations in Haiti.
We have also deployed two members of our Rapid Response Corps, a 130-strong group of highly-skilled volunteers who are seconded at short notice to humanitarian organisations in need of their skills. The two concerned, and IT expert and an electrical engineer, have been assigned to the World Food Programme. Others, with skills in areas such as logistics, water and sanitation and child protection are on stand-by.
Central to the international response is the UN Central Emergency Response Fund set up following the 2004 Tsunami to allow an immediate reaction to a disaster such as that in Haiti. Ireland was very involved in the establishment of the CERF and we committed €20m to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund in 2009, part of a €73m commitment since 2006. So far USD $25 million has been allocated from the CERF to support the Haiti relief effort.
Irish Aid has dispatched a small technical mission to assess the immediate needs of the Haitian people, identify short-term gaps in the overall response and assess how Ireland can best contribution to the overall relief effort. The mission is made up of Irish Aid staff and Defence Forces personnel.