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Conflict, climate change and pandemic led to boost in Irish foreign aid

Last year the Department of Foreign Affairs allotted €967m in overseas development aid.

CONFLICT-HIT AFRICAN states, the humanitarian impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have been key drivers of foreign funding by the Irish Government, a new Irish aid report has found.  

The Irish Aid Annual Report will today reveal that the State aid programme focused on global access to vaccines and more than doubling the climate finance programme.

Last year the Department of Foreign Affairs allotted €967m in overseas development aid (ODA). That is an increase from €868m in 2020 and surpasses the previous high of €921m spent in 2008.

The funding went to the global Covid-19 response but also went to support humanitarian assistance and protection in countries and regions such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and the Sahel.

Ireland provided additional funding to support the provision of much-needed assistance in Myanmar, Lebanon and Venezuela. The State also responded to rapidly deteriorating situations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

One example of that rapid relief is for “unforeseen events” such as the volcanic eruption in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the earthquake in Haiti and Typhoon Rai in the Philippines.

The funding is generally channelled, the report said, through the European Union  and through a range of partnerships with the UN system, the Red Cross family and civil society organisations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the HSE engaged in a partnership project with Ethiopia that sought to improve the mental well-being of health workers.

Health workers in the African country self-reported psychological distress among healthcare staff as high as 78.3%, and insomnia at 50.2%.

The Global Health Programme of the HSE, funded through Irish Aid, collaborated with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to provide resilience training for frontline staff working in COVID-19 treatment centres in Addis Ababa. 

Simon Coveney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said that areas such as the Sahel “continued to face complex overlapping humanitarian crises” which are also affected by the climate crisis.

“Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger are all affected by armed conflict. They are also on the front lines of climate change. Together, these shocks have caused huge levels of displacement and, more recently, alarming levels of food insecurity.

“Ireland committed another €2 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross, a key partner in responding to the humanitarian needs provoked by armed conflict worldwide,” he said. 

Coveney explained that key to the strategy was addressing the “underlying causes and drivers of conflict including the impact of climate change”.

Colm Brophy, the Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, said that one key response he was proud of was the delivery of Irish vaccines to Africa. 

“During 2021, we provided vital support to partners in helping deliver vaccination programmes globally.

“I was honoured to be in Uganda to witness Irish vaccines being put into Ugandan arms. It was a striking example of Ireland’s solidarity and support for people around the world,” he said. 

Gender equality

Brophy said that the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women and girls.

He said that it has led to an increase in gender-based violence, higher school dropout rates, increased forced marriages, and higher levels of unemployment.

“One of the core principles of Ireland’s work around the world is our commitment to urgent and sustained action on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

“The OECD has consistently ranked Ireland as one of the member countries with the highest focus on gender equality focus in our Official Development Assistance (ODA),” he added. 

Budget 2023 increases the allocation of more than €1.2 billion for international development – an increase of 17% on 2022 figures.

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