Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Humanitarian Aid

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which the international community has been in a position to support aid and relief agencies in Syria with particular reference to Médecins Sans Frontières; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57651/12]

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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The humanitarian crisis in Syria is of great concern to the Government. Since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011 an estimated 40,000 people have been killed in the violence. Over 2.5 million people inside Syria are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, with 1.2 million people displaced inside the country. The number of registered refugees from Syria in the region has now passed half a million. Syrians’ access to the most basic medical care has been seriously undermined. Stocks of essential drugs are low, storage facilities for medicines have been destroyed and local production of medicines has been severely disrupted. Health workers find themselves increasingly under threat and medical facilities have been indiscriminately targeted.

Ireland has responded swiftly to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and in neighbouring countries. As early as March 2012 we provided €500,000 in emergency funding for the ICRC, UNHCR and the World Food Programme. In August I visited Jordan and witnessed firsthand the huge strain that the refugee population is placing on the host countries and partners underlined to me the critical health needs within Syria itself. Since then Ireland has provided additional support of €1,950,000 which brings Ireland’s total response to the crisis to €2,450,000. Part of this funding supported WHO (€300,000) and ICRC (€400,000) to respond specifically to the medical needs of Syria’s population, focusing on increasing the number of mobile health clinics and expanding their outreach to areas most affected by the conflict. A key partner of Irish Aid, Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing emergency health care in Syria. MSF has a policy in place which does not allow them to accept Governmental support for their activities in Syria. However, we are in regular contact with them regarding the health crisis in the country and the needs on the ground.

Ireland understands that while this is a humanitarian crisis, it is driven by politics and will only be solved with a political solution. We continue to strongly support the efforts of the UN/Arab League Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, to promote a political settlement. An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, T.D was very pleased to meet with Mr. Brahimi during the recent OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Dublin where he also met with Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov. Ireland has also participated actively within the framework of the Friends of Syria Group, which includes my own attendance at the most recent meeting of the group last week in Marrakesh.

Ireland has provided significant support to those in need as a result of this crisis. Into the future we will continue to monitor the situation so that we can assess when we may be able to further contribute, within our means, to the humanitarian needs within the region.


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