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Foreign Affairs committee members visit Sierra Leone

During their visit, they will review Ireland’s development programme and Irish Aid’s work in the country.

Image: REBECCA BLACKWELL/AP/Press Association Images

THE WORK OF Irish Aid and the impact of Irish government assistance in Sierra Leone is to be looked at by a delegation from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.

They landed in Sierra Leone yesterday, 14 October, and will stay until Wednesday 17 October.

The visit is being organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and will be the first by an Oireachtas Committee to a post-conflict country which is receiving development assistance from Ireland.

The delegation, which will be led by Committee chairman Pat Breen TD and includes Deputies Bernard Durkan, Eric Byrne and Maureen O’Sullivan, will have an opportunity to review Ireland’s development programme and Irish Aid’s programme in the country.

As well as visiting health centres, schools and an agricultural business centre supported by Irish funding, the delegation will also meet with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and representatives from the Human Rights Commission and National Election Commission.

Committee Chairman, Pat Breen TD said:

Sierra Leone has suffered enormously as a result of civil war and under-development. Maternal and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Tragically, one in five children in Sierra Leone dies before their fifth birthday. Adult literacy stands at 41%, life expectancy is just 48 years and more than half of the population lives on less than €1.25 a day. The civil war between 1991 and 2002 resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and left hundreds of thousands more displaced.

To date in 2012, Irish Aid has provided €7.2 million to Sierra Leone to improve access to basic healthcare, provide life-saving nutrition to mothers and children, tackle a deadly cholera outbreak and to support peace-building initiatives. The programme is delivered through targeted partnerships with the United Nations and aid agencies.

Irish Aid has supported programmes to provide trauma counselling and access to vocational training to young men and women who were forcibly recruited to fight during the country’s recent war.

Reviewing humanitarian funding and longer term development assistance is a key part of the Committee’s remit. To date, it has met with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore TD, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Irish Aid , Irish NGOs and diplomats to discuss aid programmes.

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