Dáil Éireann - Volume 557 - 13 November, 2002

Written Answers. - Official Engagements.

  97. Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the visit of Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, to Malawi and Zambia in August 2002. [21548/02]

  Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The visit of the Minister of State took place against the backdrop of a growing food security crisis in Malawi and Zambia and across the southern Africa region. Recent assessments carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme, WFP, indicate that over 14 million people in southern Africa will be in need of food assistance by next March.

  During the visit the Minister met a wide range of key development stakeholders in Malawi and Zambia. He held discussions with President Mwanawasa of Zambia and Vice President Malewezi of Malawi as well as other senior political representatives. He also met UN agencies and Irish and international non-governmental organisations, operating in the region, to discuss how immediate food needs may best be addressed at both the national and regional levels.

  During the visit, the Minister of State witnessed the devastating effect that famine, drought and HIV-AIDs are having on the people of the region. He also viewed and paid tribute to the excellent work being carried out by Irish non-governmental organisations and by missionaries and their local counterparts in seeking to alleviate the worst effects of the crisis.

  In response to the food deficit, Ireland Aid, the official aid programme of the Government, has delivered over €8 million in emergency and humanitarian assistance for the affected countries in southern Africa to date this year. In addition to emergency humanitarian assistance, Ireland Aid is also delivering long-term development support to the region with an emphasis on poverty reduction through the provision of basic [505] needs and capacity building support. In 2002 it is estimated that such support for southern Africa will exceed €80 million.

  The visit of the Minister has informed the Government's political action in relation to the food security crisis. At the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development which took place in Johannesburg in September, the Taoiseach highlighted the food emergency in Africa and the need for an urgent international response. At the summit, Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, raised the crisis with EU Development and Environment Ministers and with the administrator of the UN Development Programme.

  The Government will continue to follow the unfolding situation in the Southern Africa region closely and we stand prepared to deliver further assistance. In addition, we will work with our donor partners to ensure maximum co-ordination and coherence in the international response to this crisis.