- the news site for journalists covering development issues - - the news site for journalists covering development issues We have to stay, to die. We remain there, we knew they are coming., 30 Nov 2015 00:35:39 +0000Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Managementen-gbPalestine: A Female Founder Providing Therapy to the Arab World of a Nablus Tech Meetup event in association with Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC). Photo: Ayah Soufan.

World and Media aims to support journalists to improve media coverage of global development issues. It should not be surprising that we are highly critical of the quantity and nature of media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In common with most war reporting, media convey a distorted image of both Palestinians and Israelis. Acts of violence are highlighted, while normal life is sidelined, as are its voices. Joseph O’Connor travelled to the West Bank where he met a number of inspiring female entrepreneurs, among them the co-founder of a start-up providing therapy to the Arab world.

'Making it' as a female entrepreneur in Palestine is no mean feat. In fact, merely existing as any kind of entrepreneur poses particular challenges due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For instance, there is currently no 3G network available in Palestine. The Government of Israel controls mobile networks there and has still to grant 3G licences to Palestinian operators. Businesses can invest in better connections inside their offices but they’re expensive, certainly for cash-strapped start-ups or SMEs.

There is also the challenge of restrictions on movement. It’s difficult for Palestinians to travel freely to and from the West Bank and Gaza, while receiving visitors can prove complicated too. There’s no airport in Palestine and without Israeli ID, Palestinians have to fly out of Jordan and then undertake an arduous three-hour journey through the Jordanian border to come home, and these are just the lucky ones that can obtain travel visas. Then there’s the various checkpoints scattered across Palestine that make the most basic journey feel like an eternity.

However, the situation in the Fatah-controlled West Bank is very different to that in Hamas-controlled Gaza; the latter is still recovering from its 50-day war with Israel in 2014.

It is to Ramallah in the West Bank, which serves as the de facto administrative capital of Palestine, where I focus my attention. It’s there that I meet a number of female entrepreneurs who seem undeterred by the social, political and cultural barriers that surround them.

]]> (Joseph O'Connor)frontpageWed, 21 Oct 2015 21:48:31 +0000
A media eclipse: Israel-Palestine and the world's forgotten conflicts patient in the public hospital in Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The poorest people receive little help in such hospitals, as health facilities are at a minimum. It is estimated that about a 1,000 people die every day in the country. Many of the deaths are caused by disease and malnutrition in a society destroyed by years of civil war. © Hugo Rami/IRIN, 2006. 

Global coverage of world conflicts pales into insignificance when compared with reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Noah Bernstein explores the causes and consequences of such an imbalance, as part of an OpenDemocracy series, forgotten conflicts.

In a forty-eight hour period beginning on Christmas Eve 2008 the Christian fundamentalist Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) killed, dismembered and burned at least 200 Congolese civilians. Soldiers raped women and girls, twisted the heads off babies, and cut the lips and ears off those they did not kill. They hacked the rest to death using machetes or axes. Child soldiers helped abduct other children.

During the same period the Israeli government and Hamas officials entered the final stages of failing ceasefire talks. War was on the horizon, but had not yet begun. An errant Hamas rocket killed two Gazan sisters; otherwise there were no cross-border casualties.

]]> (Noah Bernstein)frontpageSat, 24 Jul 2010 21:56:28 +0000
Why do so many award-winning journalists write for World and Media? return from a day foraging in the forest. The Ba’Aka people of the Congo Basin are among the most well known representatives of an ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Their lives and well-being are linked intimately with the forest. Photo: Lar Boland, supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund.

Every journalist that has produced original work for to date has won an award - for their work for us, or for their prior or subsequent writing: Niamh Griffin, Senan Hogan, Joe Humphreys, Sally Hayden, Ruairi Kavanagh, Paul Loughran, Joseph O'Connor, David Ralph, Lar Boland and Didem Tati (forthcoming). Why is this, and why have so many of those journalists contacted us with story ideas?

We would like to think that the quality of our service attracts high-quality journalists. We have over a hundred subscribers working in the Irish media, as well as journalists and editors working for the BBC, the Guardian, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, Al Araby, Sky News Arabia, IRIN, the BBC World Service, Independent Online (South Africa), The Nation (Kenya), The Express Tribune (Pakistan), New Age (Bangladesh), and Nouvel Horizon (Mali).

We would also like to think that the advice we offer to journalists that write for us, or who contact us for assistance with work they are doing for another publication, is of some benefit.

More importantly, perhaps, several of the excellent journalists that have written for us have kindly proselytised on our behalf to other journalists.

There is one common factor, however. They have all received awards from the Simon Cumbers Media Fund. The fund was set up in memory of Irish journalist Simon Cumbers who was shot dead in Saudi Arabia while working with the BBC. The Irish Aid-funded scheme is a fantastic one, in our view. It has supported a lot of superb journalism and it has helped journalists to overcome one of the biggest barriers to writing about international development – the cost of travel.

World and Media was set up with a very similar purpose: to make it easier for journalists to produce high-quality development coverage.

The scheme has two deadlines each year. For international and Irish journalists, our service and online resources (including diary announcements of funding opportunities) are available to journalists all year round (sign-up for updates here). We are always open to story pitches from journalists at any stage in their career and from any country, whether they are applying for funding or not. We also welcome analysis and opinion pieces related to international development and/or its media coverage from those with something interesting to say - whether journalists, academics, aid workers and/or voices from developing countries.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageFri, 31 Oct 2014 15:10:55 +0000
Growth. Huh. What is it good for? Absolute poverty Gumulira, 15, with her son Zayitwa in the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. If it continues, Malawi's current economic growth rate of around 6% may improve Zayitwa's prospects. Yet, Malawi's GNI per capita increased very slowly between 1980 and 2012, but life expectancy increased by over 10 years and expected years of schooling has more than doubled in the same period. Photo: Lindsay Mgbor, DFID.

Kenya and Ireland are leading current discussions on sustainable development targets for the next 15 years. One of the proposed targets is to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Whether that and the other goals will be met will depend to a significant extent on the pace and nature of economic growth in India and sub-Saharan Africa.

Probably every Western country has one or two newspapers that depict it as besieged by immigrants, crime and/or antisocial youths. What is strange about foreign news is that the overwhelming majority of national media proudly convey an image of the world going to hell in a handbasket. The truth is far more positive – so far.

One simple statistic which captures what has happened to human well-being between 1980 and 2013, is that average global life expectancy went from 59 to 71. That progress is extraordinary and has no parallel in human history. Life expectancy at birth in China is now 75. India's life expectancy is 66 – the same as China's in 1980 – up from 55 in 1980.

In the same period, the global economy has more than trebled. So, does growth explain the improvement in life expectancy? According to UNDP data, Chinese GNI per capita increased by over 1400% between 1980 and 2012. India's GNI per capita increased by a more modest 273% in the same period. However, India's improvement in life expectancy was comparable to China's (it increased by much more but started from a lower base). The rest of the global economy grew a bit more slowly than India, but achieved a similar jump in life expectancy.

The most direct cause of rising life expectancy has been the dramatic reduction in child mortality in recent decades. Success in reducing child mortality has been uneven, however. There has been slower progress in reducing death associated with childbirth, even though millions of lives could be saved at low-cost. According to the WHO:

'Every year nearly 41% of all under-five child deaths are among newborn infants, babies in their first 28 days of life or the neonatal period. Three quarters of all newborn deaths occur in the first week of life… Almost 3 million of all the babies who die each year can be saved with low-tech, low-cost care.'

]]> (World and Media)frontpageMon, 23 Mar 2015 09:49:50 +0000
Old media reports deprive Rwandan genocide survivors of the right to be forgotten at the main Rwandan genocide commemoration event at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali on the 7th of April, 2014. Photo: Sally Hayden.

One of the biggest challenges following the Rwandan genocide was getting it classified as such. As the international community faltered and fiddled and failed to appreciate what was happening, Rwandans shouted their experiences through shrouds of shock, grateful to anyone would listen and believe that such horror was possible.

Now with each anniversary those stories and images reappear throughout the media. And many survivors, once so grateful for a voice, have come to resent this exposure.

This issue first came to my attention in a conference in the Rwandan parliament on the weekend that this year's official period of mourning began. As questions were taken from the floor, a passionate voice piped up. “I'm not asking about what happened because I was there and I have seen it, but there is another issue now. As survivors we all wanted to tell and to say what had happened. There are at least two or three women I know pregnant from rape, they only wanted to talk. But twenty years later you still see your image coming out from BBC, CNN...” Speaking, I learn, is Odette Nyiramilimo, a physician, former government minister and current East African senator. Ethnically a Tutsi, she survived the genocide in the Hotel des Mille Collines, a scene later depicted in the film 'Hotel Rwanda'.

We meet again a few weeks later. Nyiramilimo sits in a bright, airy office, on the fourth floor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A portrait of President Paul Kagame hangs over her head. She's busy; her phone buzzes as we talk.

She tells me story after story.

The story of a girl, aged 15 during the genocide, who was taken by her parents' killers to the DRC and raped. When she escaped she was pregnant, and after she gave birth to a son she handed him to relatives to raise so she could attend university and start her life anew. She met a boy and they got engaged; then he travelled to Canada to finish his schooling. There, on the TV, he saw old footage of her speaking about her rape and called her in shock. With her engagement over, the girl called Nyiramilimo asking “what do I do? I don't want that story to be following me my whole life. Now I am well, I just finished university and I want to be normal.”

]]> (Sally Hayden)frontpageMon, 18 Aug 2014 16:33:32 +0000
Togo: Solar Grandmothers Tassi, a Solar Grandmother erecting a solar panel on a small home in Agame Sevah village, Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

The lives of four grandmothers from the rural village of Agome Sevah, Togo in West Africa have undergone an amazing transformation. The women travelled 5000 miles to Rajasthan in India where they trained over a six month period in Solar Electronics at the famous Barefoot College. There, they were mentored by like-minded Indian women, some of whom were themselves graduates of the College.

Leaving their families in Togo for such a long period of time was difficult for them but their reward was to become Solar Grandmothers with the prospect of electrifying their village on their return.

On completion of their training at the college, the Solar Grandmothers returned to their villages to install, maintain, and train others in solar electrification. Schools, clinics, places of worship and private homes could now have artificial light, with the potential to improve the education, health and social lives of the villagers.

The women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Africa aim to improve the lives of the rural poor living on less than €1 a day in remote inaccessible villages off the energy grids in the 21 least developed countries in Africa, supplying their communities with clean, low cost household lighting from solar energy.

]]> (Lar Boland)frontpageFri, 15 May 2015 19:46:21 +0000
Ireland and Kenya are set to lead UN negotiations on development strategy but in what direction? faces many development challenges including ethnic violence, corruption, high unemployment, crime and poverty. It now has a chance to help shape the global development agenda.  Photo: A member of The El Molo fishing community on lake Turkana, northern Kenya, Siegfried Modola/IRIN.

This month, Ireland and Kenya were appointed to lead UN negotiations on the post-2015 development strategy. Ireland’s and Kenya's roles will be led by their respective Ambassadors to the United Nations, David Donoghue and Macharia Kamau. They were appointed as "Co-Facilitators to lead open, inclusive, and transparent consultations on the post-2015 development agenda" by UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa.

The post-2015 strategy is intended to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire next year. The Goals have provided significant direction to global development strategies since they were agreed fourteen years ago.

Irish Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North-South Cooperation, Seán Sherlock T.D., outlined the importance of the leadership roles: "The role we have been given is pivotal in addressing the ambitious challenge to end global poverty and hunger in a generation. It will require Ireland to work closely with all members of the United Nations to secure a set of new goals which are ambitious and transformative. We will be defining an agenda for global action to end poverty and hunger and to ensure sustainable development worldwide by 2030"

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D., described Ireland's appointment as "a huge honour... and a great responsibility". He said: "It is testament to Ireland’s standing internationally, to our proud record of promoting human rights, to our long-standing participation in peacekeeping across the world and to our diplomacy (and) a recognition of the effectiveness of the Irish Aid programme."

He added: “This significant new role will build on Ireland’s important work on international development during our EU Presidency in 2013, and on the MDGs at the United Nations.”

The MDGs were a series of development outcomes, such as to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day.

Not every target was met in every country but huge progress has been made. The goal of halving the proportion of people earning less than $1.25 a day was met in 2010. Halving the numbers suffering from hunger in 1990 should be almost met by 2015.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 30 Oct 2014 10:43:23 +0000
Obama's Africa legacy may be judged by what happens in South Sudan Obama at a Ministerial Meeting on Sudan on September 24, 2010. Photo: U.S. State Department.The Economist's Matthew Bishop described this as 'an incredibly important week' for Africa. The biggest ever summit between the US president and African leaders concluded on Wednesday (August 6, 2014) in Washington DC. During the summit, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in new investment and trade with Africa.

President George W Bush significantly grew aid to Africa relative to his predecessors, though sometimes controversially, particularly in relation to AIDS prevention. The Obama administration has continued to provide significant funds to tackle global health issues, including new health funding announced Monday (August 4).

However, there have been distinctive policies under the current administration. For example, there appears to have been a significant shift towards focusing on trade and direct investment with Africa, mirroring the shifts that have occurred in government policy in several other countries, such as Ireland and the UK. This week's US-Africa summit is important as a symbolic statement as it is practically. It recognises the continent's emerging economic power and potential over the last 15 years. The summit may be seen as an important part of the Obama administration's Africa legacy, as will its handling of the Arab Spring.

The US has also been heavily involved in the process which led to independence for South Sudan.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 07 Aug 2014 09:18:03 +0000
India: Elderly may be better than the young at spreading health messages respect for the elderly allows them to increase awareness more easily than younger people, according to Dr Alakananda Banerjee (second from left), head of the Dharma Foundation in New Delhi.Development work in India is about more than the extreme poverty portrayed in the west according to a leading campaigner in the care for the elderly sector.

Dr Alakananda Banerjee, head of the Dharma Foundation in New Delhi said there is much work to be done in the less obvious areas of healthcare.

“India is not what is displayed outside, what western people want to see. India is not just about elephants and cows on the road,” Dr Banerjee said at the First International Conference for Age-Friendly Cities in Dublin.

The doctor, head of the Department of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation with Max Hospitals, said healthcare training for the elderly can have huge benefits for the rest of the community.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageTue, 18 Oct 2011 14:53:24 +0000
Dignity, equality, violence, death and toilets woman on the right is the proud caretaker of a Liberian public sanitation facility with separated toilets and showers for men and women. In a country where up to 77 percent of women say they have been the victim of sexual violence, it is important to minimize the risk of assault. Photo: EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie.

Picture the scene: you urgently need to go to the loo. You look around for the nearest toilet and realise with a sinking heart there is no facility around. Where do you go? What do you do?

How would you feel if you had to go to the toilet out in the open every single day? No privacy, no dignity and nowhere to wash your hands afterwards. Do you feel disgusted? Of course you do. No one should have to live like this.

But this is the stark reality for some 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have access to proper sanitation, including latrines. Almost one-seventh of the world’s population live in urban slums where a lack of access to safe toilets and adequate sanitation is most acute.

Today is World Toilet Day. It’s time to stop being embarrassed about poo and to talk dirty.

It is common knowledge for us that without toilets, human waste can impact an entire community. Open defecation poses serious health risks, particularly to children. Every 20 seconds, a child dies from diarrhoea. More children die from diarrhoea-related disease than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. This horrendous situation could be remedied by ensuring that everyone has access to improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, including supplies of clean water.

]]> (Franck Flachenberg)frontpageWed, 19 Nov 2014 20:08:45 +0000
Lebanese school for the deaf is taking in Syrian refugees Andeweg Institute for the Deaf (FAID) teacher in a classroom with pupils, Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: Barry Gunning.

A former Irish soldier is helping raise thousands of euro for a school for deaf children in Lebanon which is taking in terrified refugees from war-torn Syria.

Big-hearted Christy Kinsella (62) set up Lebanon Trust which gives vital assistance to the Father Andeweg Institute for the Deaf (FAID) in Beirut which caters for more than 70 local kids including 11 who have fled across the border from Syria.

Dubliner Christy and friends set up the charity in 2009 to help poor families he met while serving on UN peacekeeping duties in Lebanon.

Lebanon Trust volunteers regularly travel to Beirut and recently delivered funds to help hire a speech therapist while tradesmen on the trip carried out repairs to the FAID school grounds.

Christy said: "We provide financial support and practical work and we rely on a network of volunteers.”

School director Krikor Khasholian said: "We are so grateful for all the support we get from Ireland because it wouldn't be possible to run our school without this assistance."

]]> (Senan Hogan)frontpageMon, 11 Aug 2014 18:45:03 +0000
Concern Worldwide makes urgent appeal for staff as 'imminent' famine threatens South Sudan at Yida refugee camp in South Sudan’s Unity State queue for hours for food and soap. Camps could be overwhelmed if the conflict and food crisis worsen. Photo: Hannah McNeish/IRIN.Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest international humanitarian organisation, has put out an urgent appeal for experienced specialists to help in its response to the rapidly deteriorating food situation in South Sudan.

Back in early December, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) warned that the country faced a potential food crisis this year. Less than two weeks later, several conflict broke out along ethnic lines in the newly independent country between rival groups than in the ruling party. Largely as a result, the situation has deteriorated to the point that FEWS NET, the UN and many others are warning of famine that may be imminent.

The civil war meant that farmers could not plant earlier this year and now they face severe food shortages, say Concern. Food prices are soaring making it impossible for people to meet their daily needs. It is now estimated that 3.8 million people are in need of assistance.

“It is a measure of the seriousness of the very real and imminent threat of famine in the world’s newest country that we are putting out this call for staff,” said Concern’s Regional Director for South Sudan, Carol Morgan. “These are paid positions and will assist us in our existing humanitarian response in the country, which we are already scaling up significantly.”

In 2011, the humanitarian network ALNAP published a major report , which analysed lessons learnt from droughts, many of which could have been applied in this case. One of the major recommendations was timely and appropriate intervention. Concern has been responding to this crisis since January. The international response has been more mixed. A major UN appeal was launched in May but is currently only 45.5% funded even though conditions have subsequently worsened.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 07 Aug 2014 10:58:56 +0000
South Sudan in crisis John walked hundreds of miles with her four children to reach the MSF camps on the South Sudanese border with Kenya. Photo: Wairimu Gitau, MSF.Sarah John walked hundreds of miles with her four children (pictured) to reach the Medicins Sans Frontier camps on the South Sudanese border with Kenya. Aged between two and seven, the children are among almost one million refugees fleeing conflict in the world’s newest nation.

Almost three years ago the world looked on as South Sudan celebrated independence, and looked to the future. But in December agreement between the main ethnic groups came to a violent end.

An uneasy alliance between the President and Vice-President broke in July when the VP was dismissed. Violence broke out in mid-December, and reports of armed soldiers on the streets signaled an end to peace. A ceasefire declared on January 23rd has not lessened the violence.

UNHCR estimated this month there are “over 739,000 people … internally displaced and a further 196,921 sheltering in neighbouring countries” because of the escalating conflict.

A senior MSF medic told an audience in Dublin earlier this month that the situation can now be described as a crisis.

Retired British surgeon Professor Paul McMaster worked in South Sudan for a month from Christmas, joining over 3,000 local and international staff on the ground.

‘It was just after midnight when they called me to see a young girl of about 12 who had collapsed. Sitting on the floor next to her, was her seven or eight year old brother.

‘She had walked three or four days from the North, without food or water, her father had stayed behind and they had been separated from their mother. Her only carer was her brother. It was Christmas morning,’ he said.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageMon, 24 Mar 2014 16:23:26 +0000
'Now people will be more careful when they are brutalizing our girls and our women''Through the courts we have removed a bit of the stigma attached to these crimes, the women feel supported. If this project continues, it can be an example to other countries' - Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah, Consultant Master and Registrar of the Sierra Leone Judiciary. Photo: Niamh Griffin.It’s early on Saturday in Freetown, Sierra Leone but the courthouse is slowly waking up.

A truck rattles through the large gates, carrying prisoners linked to sexual assault cases. Here ‘Saturday Courts’ hear rape and assault cases in a programme partially funded by Ireland through the UN.

Almost 2,000 cases were recorded in the country’s three rape crisis centres during 2012 alone, so the courts serve a vital function in reassuring girls and women that justice can be done.

UN legal officer Rakel Larsen takes me through the quiet corridors. Funding covers weekend salaries but doesn’t stretch to electricity for the silent fans or even lights.

She says the courts, which were set up in 2011, are slowly changing attitudes:

‘It can be a challenge. The Saturday Courts provides a protective, victim-friendly environment, but it can be busy with family members. I think people didn’t come forward before. Now the women’s groups make a lot of noise. And there is a lot of funding, a lot of support.”

She adds: “We don’t have specific case-processing time statistics but we are working on data. You hear of cases waiting seven years to be heard, but gender-based-violence cases don’t wait. Rapes are also heard during the week”.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageTue, 29 Apr 2014 12:49:09 +0000
Global hunger report: the traditional separation of relief and development efforts is not working 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report shows that the world has made some progress in reducing hunger since 1990, but still has far to go.The 2013 Global Hunger Index found that global hunger levels are still unacceptably high and that 19 countries had levels of hunger that were "extremely alarming" or "alarming". Resilience was the theme of the report, which stated that the international development community was not doing enough to increase resilience in vulnerable communities. From the foreword:

"It has become clear that it is not enough to help the poor and vulnerable survive short-term shocks. Because they are among those hit hardest by shocks and least able to cope, the constant exposure to manmade or natural shocks means they find it hard to improve their lot. Poor and vulnerable populations need more resilience."

One of the authors of the report, IFPRI Research Fellow, Derek Headey, said that to improve resilience there needed to be improved monitoring and measurement of resilience, there needed to be closer cooperation between those who work on humanitarian relief and those who conduct long-term development, and resilience-building needed to be incorporated into development strategies.

Poor people and countries are particularly vulnerable to shocks. Globally, the number of conflicts and natural disasters have increased in the last 20 years and so have food price levels and volatility.

The traditional approach to dealing with shocks is emergency aid – often only when people are already starving – , with separate development efforts focused on mitigating stresses and reducing long-term vulnerability. According to Concern Worldwide, "the persistent vulnerability of regions - such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa - suggests that the traditional separation of relief and development efforts is not working."

"We must focus on those living in extreme poverty, learn the lessons of the past and be clear what measures are needed to enable the very poorest to become more resilient in the long-term." said Concern’s CEO Dominic MacSorley.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 17 Oct 2013 13:29:37 +0000
Prioritising hunger, conflict prevention, democracy and media freedom President Michael D Higgins speaking at the opening of the Hunger • Nutrition • Climate Justice • 2013 conference in Dublin. Ireland's focus on hunger should be applauded. Photo: is conducting a public review of its Foreign Policy and External Relations. Below would be some of our priorities in the context of Ireland's laudable current strategic objectives:

Ireland's focus on hunger should be particularly applauded. We would argue that hunger should be its number one foreign policy priority, given Ireland's history, its recent success pushing that agenda, the urgency of the problem, and the very strong empirical evidence and expert economic consensus that fighting hunger is among the most cost-effective public policies.

Ireland is right also to prioritise peace and human rights. However, it should focus on conflict prevention because a) is badly neglected and b) it is much more cost-effective than peace-keeping and peace-making.

Most of the worst recent civil conflicts have occured when power or wealth was distributed unequally between identifiable groups, which then fought to change or preserve that distribution (sometimes motivated by fear). That was the case in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and, most recently, in Iraq. It was also true in Northern Ireland and is true of Syria.

]]> (Frank Humphreys)frontpageWed, 05 Feb 2014 12:20:32 +0000
Oil effects: Sierra Leone's once-pristine landscape is being replaced by palm trees Rahall, Executive Director eco-NGO 'Green Scenery', at the offices in Freetown, Sierra Leone.When Joseph Rahall speaks about oil plantations, you can hear the emotion in his voice and sense the fear he has for Sierra Leone.

He says of a once-pristine landscape: “You stand there, and all you can see is palm-trees for miles.”

In a country desperate for investment and jobs, the lure of the palm-oil money from large multi-nationals can be hard to resist. But Rahall fears the price to be paid is sovereignty.

Founder of Green Scenery (in 1989), an NGO partially funded by Irish Aid, he is driven by a desire to see fair treatment for landowners by the multinational palm oil companies. The group’s aim is to help local people look after their own interests, with minimal interference – they offer training and advice only.

He visited Dublin last year through the Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership and spoke of plantation-leases already occupying one-fifth of Sierra Leone’s land-mass – this in a coastal country smaller than Ireland.

And Rahall says there is an urgent need to question this, with many more companies eyeing up the lush greenlands of Sierra Leone. Its people endured a brutal civil war which raged for a decade until a peace accord in January 2002. Since then peace has brought rewards and but also financial challenges.

He says: “My fear is about the country’s security. Some of this land is being concentrated in the hands of few companies. Imagine if up to half to the country is gone in 50 to 100 years. As a government, what can you do then?

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageTue, 29 Apr 2014 12:47:01 +0000
Sierra Leone a good fit for Ireland Annie Mafinda, with toys in the counselling room at the Freetown 'Rainbo' rape crisis centre. Photo: Niamh Griffin.Sierra Leone is now one of Ireland’s partner countries under the Irish Aid development programme, a match less surprising than you might think as the two small coastal nations have much in common.

The West African country was riven by a decade of civil war funded by the sale of so-called ‘blood diamonds’. But almost 12 years on from that conflict, an air of optimism is tangible in Freetown’s muddy streets.

In the beachside capital, the Irish flag flies over a walled compound, down an earth-covered road. It’s dwarfed by the nearby British embassy but work done here is injecting a steady drip of progress behind the scenes in the areas of justice and food-security.

Dubliner Sinead Walsh supervises various programmes - mainly on nutrition  and gender issues - from the Irish Aid office, which was upgraded to Embassy status in January.

Ms Walsh works with the Sierra Leone government and in partnership with other NGOs.

She said: ‘The country after the war was destroyed. I was here in 2005 before I moved here in 2011, it’s remarkable the changes even since then.

‘Most of our programmes are about women, and rights. It’s an area that was neglected for a long time, even in Ireland. About 50% of girls by 18 here have either given birth or are pregnant, it’s a huge problem and something the government here is taking on.’

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageTue, 29 Apr 2014 12:44:40 +0000
Development NGOs are setting standards for the whole charity sector - Minister agency logos. Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, TD, said 'Ireland’s overseas aid programme has been recognised time after time, by independent international observers, as one of the most effective and focussed in the world.'.Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, TD, today commended Non-Governmental Organisations involved in overseas development for their commitment to delivering effective programmes to assist communities in the developing world.

Minister Costello was speaking at the Dóchas Annual Conference in Dublin which focused on the importance of charity regulation, transparency, and accountability for NGOs engaged in international development.

Minister Costello said:

“Ireland’s overseas aid programme has been recognised time after time, by independent international observers, as one of the most effective and focussed in the world. The development NGO sector has a key role to play in this.

“The recent controversies regarding use of charitable funds in Ireland have eroded public trust in the charity sector. NGOs and all publically-funded organisations are now under increased scrutiny and must demonstrate more than ever that they are effective, accountable and achieving value for money.

“I am confident that the challenge in terms of greater accountability is one for which Irish Aid’s NGO partners are well prepared. Working in partnership with Irish Aid, considerable effort has already been undertaken by development NGOs in recent years to ensure full accountability for the use of public funds.

Minister Costello indicated that Irish Development NGOs had taken the lead in setting standards that may be adopted by the new charity regulator:

“As the new charity regulator works to set standards for the sector overall, I urge Irish development NGOs to continue to lead by example in this regard.”

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 01 May 2014 14:39:12 +0000
The Butterfly Effect Euphaedra Nephron butterfly. Live butterfly exhibits in Western countries, often run by local governments and private zoos, represent the main buyers for the project although there are plans afoot to source more local buyers in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Live exhibits need shipments every 2 to 3 weeks because the lifespan of most butterflies does not exceed this time period. Photo: Joseph O'Connor.Tanzania: One butterfly farming project in the East Usambara Mountains is giving women a stronger voice in their communities.

Sitting opposite me on a small stool beside a rather primitive dwelling in the tiny village of Fanusi, northeast Tanzania, is Rosie Marishali. A soft-spoken young woman who has been working as a butterfly farmer for seven years now, I can see she is a little daunted by the microphone placed in front of her as we begin our interview. Nonetheless, she settles well into our conversation and becomes more assured of herself as we discuss a livelihood which has positively impacted her life.

Now in its tenth year of operation, the Amani Butterfly Project is a non-profit organisation based in the East Usambara Mountains which has been generating income for local butterfly farmers from six villages by helping them to farm and market native butterflies, some of which are exclusive to the region. The initial mission of the project was to reduce poverty and create an incentive for forest conservation, but it has proved to have one other major positive knock-on effect; giving women a greater voice in their communities. The project benefits from the support of the Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group, an NGO that has assisted the enterprise both financially and administratively with the help of funding from various donors, including a $5,000 donation from Irish Aid, which helped build the project's office in 2003.

The Butterfly Project is the brainchild of a young American biologist by the name of Theron Morgan-Brown. Loosely based on a similar project in Kenya, Morgan-Brown produced a body of research as part of his undergraduate degree; a feasibility study on how butterfly farming could be introduced to the East Usambara Mountains, an area renowned for its ecological importance. With this project, locals were given the opportunity to generate an alternative source of income through an activity which encourages conservation. Furthermore, it would take place in an area which was suffering from the detremental effects of logging by those seeking to produce charcoal or who were clearing forest to create farmland.

]]> (Joseph O'Connor)frontpageWed, 08 Jan 2014 19:03:18 +0000
DRC: Analysts cautious about significance of M23 peace delcaration refugees board a truck at Bunagana on the Uganda-DRC border. Over 800,000 may been displaced by conflict since it began March 2012. Government forces captured the M23 rebels main base in Bunagana on October 30, 2013. The sides declared an end to hostilities on December 12. Photo:  Samuel Okiror/IRIN, May 2012.The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the former rebel group known as the M23 Movement signed declarations on 12 December formalizing agreements to end hostilities in eastern DRC.

The declarations, together with a Final Communique on the Kampala Dialogue, were released by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community - which together sponsored almost a year of fitful peace talks in the Ugandan capital. The documents articulated each sides’ commitments on a range of issues, including M23’s renunciation of rebellion and transformation into a political party; the government’s limited offer of amnesty to combatants; the release of prisoners; the demobilization and reintegration of former rebels; national reconciliation and justice; and social security and economic reforms.

Kinshasa also committed itself to quickly moving ahead to facilitate the return of refugees, in line with tripartite agreements signed with neighbouring states, and to help internally displaced civilians, who number more than two million in eastern DRC, go back home.

Through his spokesman, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the declarations constituted a “positive step towards ending cycles of deadly conflicts that have caused immense suffering to the Congolese people.”

Yet analysts remain divided on whether political dialogue or military means is best to address the problem of armed rebellion in eastern DRC, even as focus now shifts to the northeastern Orientale Province, after relative success in North Kivu. Some argue for a mix of both: “neutralizing” armed groups while engaging in security sector and institutional reforms.

]]> (IRIN so/aw/am/rz)frontpageFri, 20 Dec 2013 17:34:26 +0000
Philippines among countries let down by donor promises on climate change adaptation Typhoon Haiyan Approaches the Philippines, 07 November, 2013. Photo: NOAA.[BRUSSELS] Yet another round of UN climate talks begins today (November 11), this time in Warsaw, occurring against the backdrop of Typhoon Haiyan, which has reportedly killed at least 10,000 people in the Philippines. But two new papers point out that funding promised to help countries adapt to climate change have been insufficient and untransparent.

In fact, from 2010 to 2011, commitments for adaptation finance decreased in the Philippines, according to a joint paper by Oxfam, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The paper looked specifically at a 2009 commitment made by rich countries - which came to be known as “fast-start finance” - to fund developing countries’ adaptation efforts. Another recent Oxfam paper also showed that rich countries have failed to keep that 2009 promise.

At the opening of the UN talks in Warsaw, Naderev Sano, the Philippines’ climate change negotiator, reportedly announced that he would embark on a voluntary fast until there was action that would protect his country’s future.

Funds short

The 2009 fast-start finance commitment, which called for developed countries to provide US$30 billion between 2010 and 2012, was made at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen. At the same meeting, the developed world promised to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020.

A number of think-tanks and academics have since underlined the difficulty of identifying and accounting for this money because of discrepancies in reporting, the lack of a common understanding of what “adaptation” and “vulnerability” mean, and a lack of transparency. 

]]> (IRIN jk/rz)frontpageMon, 11 Nov 2013 23:26:19 +0000
Editorial: Why the world's poorest really are different Somali girl has her arm measured as part of a weekly nutritional assessment organized by DIAL, a local NGO and UNICEF partner. Economists estimate each euro spent reducing chronic undernutrition has at least a €30 payoff. Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN.The principal rationale for prioritising help to the world's poorest is how little money it could take to improve their welfare.

In childhood, we are told stories of how rich people are bad and poor people are good. It is something of a problem, given that, globally, we are the richest generation in human history: Mediaeval royalty had poor healthcare and life expectancy - and no Internet. However, we can take some comfort from the fact that, by its end, we can expect to have been among the poorest generations of the still new millennium. Even Bill Gates will have many deprivations compared to some future generations.

On the other hand, as we grow up and put away childish things, we are increasingly told that the poor are feckless, tax is theft and that the rich work hard for their money - as if the poor do not.

If it sounds like we are being hit by propaganda, that is hardly surprising given how recently the Cold War ended. Of course, the propaganda is also frequently self-serving: few people argue that they should be paid less for what they do. A more reasonable assessment is the one the Irish writer and critic Mary Colum expressed to Ernest Hemingway: "the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money." In the same way, the powerful are like the weak just with more power.

Who is rich and who is poor? Apparently most millionaires do not see themselves as rich. Compared with the bottom billion, however, the world's top 3 billion are very wealthy, to say nothing of the top 1 billion. However, many of that top 1 billion are currently unemployed, depressed or facing serious health difficulties. Many of the bottom 1 billion are fairly happy. Both groups contain what would commonly be regarded as nice people and nasty people. Both groups contain men, women and children who are suffering and who could be helped.

Many of the biggest global health problems are common to every country: heart disease, cancer, depression, obesity, smoking, road accidents. These problems often relatively neglected in lower-income countries despite their increasing life expectancies and growing problems with tobacco marketing and obesity, for example.

Nevertheless, rich and poor countries and populations do not experience the same burdens of disease and disability. When it comes to children, the differences are stark. Millions of children under five die every year from poverty. Every 20 seconds a child dies from diarrhoea. UNICEF estimates that 165 million children are stunted due to malnutrition. Citizens of the rich world enjoy democracy, human rights, public services, safety nets and peace in far greater measure than the bottom billion.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageMon, 29 Jul 2013 15:42:04 +0000
Unreported cuts: 17,000 fewer children under five to die tomorrow gets a check up at the local medical health clinic in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. The clinic is funded by the World Bank's Strengthening Health Activities for Rural Poor Project (SHARP). The drops in global child mortality rates since 1990 equate to over 6 million fewer child deaths in 2012. In Afghanistan, it equates to 80,000 fewer deaths last year. Photo: Graham Crouch / World Bank.Since 1990, the proportion of children under five that die each year has nearly halved. According to a recent report from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation*, it has dropped by over 50% in all regions except for sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

The figures are immense. Despite population growth the number of under-five deaths worldwide has declined from approximately 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million last year. This progress made over 22 years translated to around 17,000 fewer small children dying per day in 2012. Yet, every single day, 18,000 children under age five did die.

These daily totals of deaths – either averted or that could have been averted had there been greater political will – dwarf almost all the suicide bombs, atrocities, accidents, negligence, shootings and abuses that filled the news in the more than two decades since 1990. The 6.6 million that died in 2012 were almost invisible. Programs such as this partnership that cut childbirth deaths in a Sudanese hospital in half are barely reported.

To put these figures in perspective, one could look at mortality rates in conflict-affected countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq the under-five mortality rate still dropped from approximately 45 to 34 per 1000 live births between 2000 and 2012. Last year, there were about 35,000 under-5 deaths but some 11,000 child deaths may have been averted relative to the mortality rate in 2000 and tens of thousands averted over the whole period.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageTue, 15 Oct 2013 14:37:49 +0000
Ireland leading on hunger but coalition will miss its Programme for Government aid target Gael leader and Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny (left) and Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore (right). Original photos: Flickr/infomatique.Driven by its own tragic history of famine, Ireland has made tackling global hunger a top priority. It is now an acknowledged global leader in the fight against undernutrition, which killed approximately 3 million children under five last year.

Ireland's focus on hunger during its recent EU presidency was commended by the CEO of Concern Worldwide, Dominic MacSorley.

Despite severe cuts to its development assistance since 2008, Ireland remains one of the more generous donors in the OECD and one which regularly ranks very highly for the quality of its aid.

The quality of the Irish Aid programme is evidenced by some of the statistics in its annual report. For example, in Malawi, a bednet distribution program has reduced deaths from malaria by 95%. Nevertheless, Irish Official Development Assistance (ODA) falls short of the internationally agreed target of 0.7% of GNP and has been cut once again in Tuesday's budget.

After the Irish general election in 2011, Fine Gael and Labour formed a coalition government. In their Programme for Government for 2011-2016, the two parties stated not only their commitment to the 0.7% ODA target but also that they would seek to achieve this by 2015.*

After the sixth budget cut in a row, it is now plain that the target will not be achieved next year.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageFri, 18 Oct 2013 06:53:23 +0000
Irish Aid programme cuts Malaria death rate in Malawi by 95% of Reducing Hunger, Strengthening Resilience: Irish Aid Annual Report 2012, 12 September 2013. Photo: Irish Aid.Last month, World and Media reported that an Irish Aid supported hospital partnership was associated with an 86 per cent reduction in maternal mortality and a 50 percent drop in stillbirths and early neonatal deaths in the Omdurman Maternity Hospital in Sudan. Today (September 12), the Government’s programme for overseas development, Irish Aid, published its annual report with some even more striking evidence for its effectiveness:

  • Ethiopia: Almost 7 million people protected from hunger in 2012 through an Irish Aid supported programme, which provides cash or food in exchange for work to improve agriculture and protect the environment.
  • Malawi: In Malawi, following the distribution of 263,000 bednets, suspected deaths from malaria among children under 5 have reduced by 95% since 2010.
  • Mozambique: 71% of girls aged 6 in Mozambique are now enrolled in school. This is up from 58% in 2005.
  • Tanzania: Since 2001, the area of agricultural land under irrigation has almost doubled (up from 200,000 hectares to 399,000 hectares), contributing to reduced hunger and increased economic opportunity for families.
  • Vietnam: Two-thirds reduction in rates of mothers dying in childbirth between 1990 and 2009.
  • Zambia: 400,000 people have access to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation facilities thanks to Irish Aid’s programme in Northern Province.
  • Ethiopia: The proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day decreased from 56% in 2000 to 39% in 2012.
]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 12 Sep 2013 17:25:30 +0000
Humanitarian work more dangerous 10 years after attack on UN HQ in Iraq Worldwide country director Fiona Mclysaght on one of the bridges Concern have constructed in Afghanistan's Chall district to reconnect communities to the outside world. Afghanistan is among the countries with the highest number of humanitarian worker casualties. However, Fiona describes it as 'an amazing country to work in'.Today is the 10th anniversary today of the bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq, which killed the UN chief envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 other humanitarian workers. World Humanitarian Day takes place every year on August 19 to honour all humanitarians who have lost their lives or who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause.

Since that attack, humanitarian action has become more – not less – dangerous. Statistics from The Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD) show that, on average, attacks on aid workers have gone up considerably since 2003-5, particularly kidnapping. Over 200 victims of attacks, including seventy-six deaths, have already been recorded this year. Most of the attacks take place in Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and both Sudans.

On Wednesday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to announced that it was withdrawing completely from Somalia after 22 years operating there. It blamed civilian leaders as well as armed groups, who they said “increasingly support, tolerate, or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers.” Sixteen of its staff have been killed since 1991. MSF noted that much of the “intolerable risk” is borne by their Somali colleagues.

As in previous years, a very large majority of the worldwide victims have been nationals of the countries where the attacks took place. They make up even larger proportion of total humanitarian workers.

Adele Harmer of the Overseas Development Institute lists a number of steps intended to improve the safety of national staff and local partners, including training, decentralizing organisational authority and appointing diaspora nationals as international staff.

It is these personnel, together with international staff that World Humanitarian Day is intended to celebrate. This year, the UN and its humanitarian partners are launching what they describe as a ground-breaking campaign, “The world needs more…”. It calls for more funds to help their work. Even though that work has become more dangerous, the number of aid workers continues to grow.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageMon, 19 Aug 2013 01:59:33 +0000
Sudan-Ireland hospital partnership cuts childbirth deaths in half's Mulago Hospital works with Ireland through a partnership with the College of Surgeons Eastern Central and Southern Africa. Photo: Daudi Ssebaggala.In a hospital where waiting lines of patients arrive before eight am, a small computer room is an oasis for surgical interns. Funded by Irish Aid and developed as part of a programme with the Royal College of Surgeons, the room is a small step towards having more surgeons in Uganda.

Interns in Ugandan hospitals typically do far more practical work than study. This room is part of a programme linking the interns online with classes and lecturers to right that balance.

Thick blue curtains on the door block out the noise, and give the interns a chance to get together in peace. And in a city where steady internet coverage is still far off, the coverage in here allows them to read and interact online with their peers.

Mulago Hospital, a key referral hospital for the country of over 30 million, works with Ireland through a partnership with the College of Surgeons Eastern Central and Southern Africa.

Another partnership, between Cork University Hospital and the Omdurman Maternity Hospital in Sudan "is associated with an 86 per cent reduction in maternal mortality and a 50 percent drop in stillbirths and early neonatal deaths," according to the Irish Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello.

These and projects are set to receive a boost through Ireland’s new membership of an international health alliance, ESTHER. According to Irish Aid, both projects are now under its umbrella and other projects are expected to apply to the programme this year.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageMon, 19 Aug 2013 13:37:21 +0000
Opinion: A little aid can provide a massive return from a Community Conversation group in Mukuru during a resource mapping process, the process helps the community identify how best they can address their issue. Photo: Concern Worldwide.In these times of financial turmoil, it is natural to question government spending and examine how our limited resources can be best put to use. Overseas aid budgets have come under intense scrutiny from citizens of countries the world over, with some people preferring that we cease all aid in favor of spending on domestic projects during this cash-strapped and difficult period – the “charity begins at home” outlook.

Many others recognize the importance of aid to the world’s poorest, whether for reasons of social justice, compassion, or diplomacy. Amidst all the voices and opinions, I have noted the growing unease and, at times, cynicism people have about aid and its efficacy. “We give and give, but nothing ever changes” is a phrase I have often heard.

Implicit in this unease is the notion that the world’s poor are simply recipients, simply needy, waiting to be led out of poverty. What we do not see represented as often is the tireless commitment and dogged determination of communities and of average community members to improve their lives, to increase their opportunities, their access to jobs, health care, and education.

On a recent trip to Nairobi, Kenya, I was fortunate to see the very real and powerful will of local people to solve problems and escape poverty. The Mukuru slum in the eastern part of Nairobi is home to over 100,000 people. Off several roads, row after row of corrugated iron and wooden shacks are crisscrossed with winding dirt lanes no more than a few feet wide. My colleagues from Concern Worldwide and our local partner organization, the Mukuru Slum Development Project, and I walked through the maze of paths, hopping over open, murky trenches filled with waste water and sewage until we reached a shed about the size of a classroom.

We were going to meet a group of residents from the Hazina and Kisii neighborhoods of Mukuru who had gathered to form the Haki Community Conversation. Inside the muggy, dimly-lit room squeezed 40 men and women, old and young, many with young children sitting on their laps. Everyone was meeting for one reason: to address local issues with local ingenuity. Used in many countries and contexts, Community Conversations are just that–meetings where people can talk about, and work to solve, the immediate challenges in their community.

The meeting started with announcements from various attendees, addressing issues that had come to light since the last meeting, such as fire safety and domestic violence. The floor then opened for anyone to raise topics that were of interest to them. One woman stood, swaddling a child in a brightly colored shawl, and asked where she could access maternity services. Thankfully, the Haki Community Conversation already has a working solution in place. It identifies pregnant women and informs them of where and how to get maternity treatment vouchers, enabling them to access free medical care during their pregnancy.

]]> (Aoife Ruth)frontpageFri, 26 Jul 2013 14:30:04 +0000
Better governance without coups or revolutions cheered by the public after General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi removed President Mohamed Morsi. Photo: Zeinab Mohamed/Flickr, July 7, 2013.In Zimbabwe, Egypt or Luxembourg, people want better governance. The major differences between countries are the degrees of dissatisfaction, and the ways in which people wish – or have the power – to effect change.

Not all countries have a Prime Minister willing to resign over a security scandal, as does Luxembourg. For many others, there is always the next election.

Elections are not always a good indicator of democratic freedoms or a guarantee of good government, unfortunately - even when they offer a genuine choice. Coups and armed resistance, on the other hand, are an expression of failure to achieve change by another method.

Even in mature democracies, elections are blunt instruments that are unlikely to precisely produce the change anticipated by the electorate not least because voters have different preferences and any change creates losers as well as winners. And there are other reasons: improvements usually take time; governing in opposition (whether by politicians, pundits or voters) is easier than in office; candidates may overpromise or will not have as much power if elected as they pretend.

There can be serious problems with the system too, such as the gerrymandering of electoral districts in the US. In poorer countries, system failings can be more widespread and severe.

In recent decades, increasing attention has been paid by the international development community to the impact of governance on poverty. In the worst cases, bad governments can be responsible for famines, civil war, for corruption on a massive scale, or for the collapse of the state. On the other hand, improving governance is not easy nor cheap. This is why some international donors, including Irish Aid, support governance and democratic development in recipient countries.

Incremental improvements rarely make headlines but they are intended to prevent the sort of state failure that does lead to headlines and for calls for the international community to "do something". As with other humanitarian disasters, prevention is as cost-effective as it is neglected.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 18 Jul 2013 08:16:32 +0000
Aid still has huge public support 28 years after Live Aid Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA. A simultaneous concert was held at Wembley Stadium in London on July 13, 1985. Photo: Squelle/Wikipedia.28 years after Live Aid, the aid sector is perhaps under more scrutiny and criticism than ever before. Yet, surveys do not find widespread cynicism. Instead, despite austerity, support for aid is nearly as strong as ever.

This month in 1985, Boomtown Rats front man Bob Geldof and others cajoled international stars of rock and pop to join together in live concerts in London and Philadelphia – Live Aid – to raise funds to fight famine in Ethiopia.

The story that Geldof said "give us your f***in money" may be apocryphal but the message was plain. Live Aid has since been criticised for oversimplification, principally for ignoring the man-made nature of the Ethiopian famine, but also for what some have taken as its implied message that small private donations can feed the world.

Whether fair comment or not, similar accusations could have been made against many fundraising campaigns. It may always be true that humanitarian emergencies receive far more media, public and political attention than long-term needs or prevention.

Live 8 was a set of international concerts held 20 years later, in 2005, to influence the G8 rather than raise funds. It was a symbolic affirmation of the connected Make Poverty History campaign and a recognition of the importance of political leadership and international coordination in matters of aid, trade and debt (the campaign themes). Some of those close to those G8 negotiations in Gleneagles felt that Live 8 put important pressure on visiting G8 leaders, while Make Poverty History made a big impact in the UK, which was hosting the summit. (It also made a significant impact in Ireland.) The G8 agreement was an impressive achievement though one that was honoured in the breach by several signatories.

Live 8 was an obvious legacy of Live Aid but its full legacy is larger still and hard to estimate. The Ethiopian famine influenced a generation from which future aid workers, activists, policy analysts, journalists and politicians would be drawn. Live Aid's simple message of need, duty and optimism likely played a significant part. The concerts were apparently a formative experience for the last three UK Prime Ministers and two recent US Presidents. Bono, who performed with U2 in 1985, is a notable graduate of Live Aid, who has done much to shift US Republican opinion in favour of aid to Africa, and has raised the profile of African poverty in the United States and internationally, partly through the ONE Campaign, which he helped to found..

Not everyone agrees that Live Aid or its legacy was positive. In the years since – particularly in the last few years – aid has received a lot of criticism. (One of the best books on the subject is “The Trouble with Aid” by Jonathan Glennie.) Some of the criticism (notably by Linda Polman) has highlighted the severe difficulties with providing humanitarian relief in conflict situations, as with Live Aid in Ethiopia in the 1980s.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 18 Jul 2013 11:29:49 +0000
Donors pledge assistance to Syrian refugees, Concern chief draws parallel with Cambodia Camp in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, is the temporary home to thousands of Kurdish Syrians, most of whom have arrived since September 2012. Photo: Jodi Hilton/IRIN.The Irish Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello T.D, today announced €1.65 million in funding to support thousands of Syrian families forced to flee their homes.

The funding, which is being provided to Irish NGOs, Concern, Goal and Oxfam, brings Ireland’s total support for communities afflicted by the conflict in Syria to almost €10 million. Announcing the funding today, World Refugee Day (June 20), Minister Costello said:

“Again Ireland is showing leadership in response to the worsening crisis in Syria, which has left almost seven million people in urgent need of assistance. This funding will enable Concern, Oxfam and Goal to provide clean water, sanitation, food and blankets to those who have been left homeless by the conflict both within Syria and in neighbouring countries.

“Countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have shown immense generosity in hosting such large numbers of Syrians seeking refuge, but have come under great strain as a result.”

The United Nations this month launched its largest ever appeal in response to the Syrian conflict, requesting $5.2 billion (€3.9 billion).

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has so far received 28% of the $3 billion (€2.3 billion) which it has appealed for.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageThu, 20 Jun 2013 01:21:45 +0000
A fitting legacy of Ireland’s EU Presidency Concern CEO Dominic MacSorley. Photo: Concern Worldwide.With developing countries’ growth rates higher than those of the Eurozone and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals accelerating, there is one challenge which is crippling the economic and social potential of almost a billion people: hunger. It kills 2.3 million children each year and results in 165 million becoming stunted, meaning that their bodies and brains are permanently damaged, with negative impacts on earning potential of as much as 20%.

Last month, President Higgins spoke plainly and passionately about this scandal. At a conference co-hosted by the Irish Government, the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice and others, he described the global food crisis as “the grossest of human rights violations, and the greatest ethical challenge facing the global community”. Those are strong words, important words, necessary words and as long as millions go hungry, they need repeating.

A sense of justice and a spirit of solidarity are deeply rooted in the Irish public. They are rooted too in all those who have supported Concern for over 40 years. They have driven us to respond effectively to emergencies; to work in the most difficult contexts with the most vulnerable people; to develop innovative, scalable solutions and to seek to influence policy and practice at national, European and international levels.

As the largest donor in the world, the EU has a particular role and responsibility. Over these past six months, Ireland – as President of the EU – has taken on the mantle and steered the EU towards a range of decisions endorsed by the meeting of Foreign and Development Ministers earlier this week. The European Commission had already committed to reduce by seven million the number of children who suffer from stunting by 2025 and the ‘council conclusions’ agreed on Tuesday – in the areas of Food & Nutrition Security and Resilience - hold promise of greater EU action in the fight against hunger. These decisions have been negotiated under Ireland’s watch and play to our strengths as a leader in the fight against hunger and as a donor which is recognised by the OECD as honourable, responsible and principled.

That being said, other announcements on Tuesday relating to EU investment in development aid are extremely concerning. The gap is widening between Europe’s stated commitment to reaching the international 0.7% aid target and the figures being reported - with a gap of more than EUR46 billion between current investment and the 2015 target.

]]> (Dominic MacSorley)frontpageThu, 06 Jun 2013 10:33:00 +0000
Eradication of river blindness in Africa now possible - Sightsavers volunteers in Kaduna State, Nigeria distribute the annual dose of Mectizan® to locals to prevent river blindness. Photo: ©Kate Holt/Sightsavers.River blindness in African countries can be eradicated within ten years according to an international charity working with the disease.

Simon Bush from Sightsavers spoke in Dublin in May to launch a new campaign against the disease, and said it is realistic to speak about eradication now that pharmaceutical companies like MSD are involved. Donations of expensive drugs have allowed NGOs and local health workers to target diseases more effectively than before.

According to Sightsavers around 37 million people are currently infected with river blindness including roughly 300,000 who are already irreversibly blind. Up to 140 million people in Africa are at risk of infection.

Speaking after the event, Mr Bush, director of Neglected Tropical Diseases, said: ‘The best option we have is this donated drug. MSD started the first donation programme, and it’s in its 26th year now.

“The pharma companies are donating the drugs. That is giving us a challenge as NGOs to say we have to get that drug to everyone who needs it.”

Along with Pfziers, MSD have focused their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme on donating drugs to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases. The WHO agree eradiction of these diseases is possible, and have run campaigns in Ghana and other parts of sub-saharan Africa.

Mr Bush said river blindness is easily treated, but the problem is funds and distribution.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageSat, 01 Jun 2013 09:02:54 +0000
Chronic hunger represents the great ethical failure of the current global system - President Michael D Higgins President Michael D Higgins speaking at the opening of the Hunger • Nutrition • Climate Justice • 2013 conference in Dublin. Photo: Michael D Higgins this week described the food crisis facing the world in strong language more often heard at conferences on torture or other human rights issues.

Speaking at a two-day conference on hunger, nutrition and climate justice in Dublin, President Higgins said urgent problems face us.

“Global hunger in the 21st century represents the grossest of human rights violations, and the greatest ethical challenge facing the global community.

“The source of this hunger is not a lack of food, but the moral affront of poverty, created and sustained by gross inequalities across the world - inequalities of power, economics and technology,” he said in an opening address to the 350 delegates from 60 countries.

The conference, part of Ireland’s EU presidency, was hosted by the Irish government and the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice (MRFCJ) in partnership with the World Food Programme.

President Higgins went on to talk about “the great ethical failure of the current global system” saying it is striking how rarely famine is caused by natural disaster or war.

He said: “Although many people might imagine that deaths from hunger generally occur in times of famine and conflict, the fact is that only about 10% of these deaths are the result of armed conflicts, natural catastrophes or exceptional climatic conditions.

“The other 90% are victims of long term, chronic lack of access to adequate food which represents, I repeat, the great ethical failure of the current global system.”

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageWed, 17 Apr 2013 17:20:36 +0000
We cannot stop shocks but we can help vulnerable people and countries withstand them - Minister refugees with their cattle in Burkina Faso near the border with Mali, March 16, 2013. Photo: VSF.April is the start of the lean season in the Sahel region of Africa, and empty fields in Mali are just one sign of a growing food crisis again this year. But with less than 1,000 days to a global deadline for eradicating poverty an alliance of charities say a new approach is needed.

Seven NGOs including Irish-based charity Concern Worldwide are working with the European Commission to cut down duplication in relief efforts. The group ‘Alliance2015’ plans to harness their considerable joint budget to reach their aims in 84 countries.

Their name is taken from the deadline set by the UN for eradicating poverty by 2015 through the ‘Millennium Development Goals’. Many of these targets have been achieved, but for others including food security the battle has yet to be won.

In Mali partner group Welthungerhilfe from Germany delivers emergency food and mosquito nets to some of the estimated 450,000 refugees. But they also work on agriculture in an effort to break the drought cycle.

Speaking at an Alliance2015 roundtable event in Dublin to discuss scaling up the EU’s impact on community resilience and nutrition, an aid worker said the problem of ‘undernutition’ needs as much focus as famine.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageTue, 16 Apr 2013 07:39:59 +0000
Every 20 seconds, a child dies from diarrhoea. for water. Local residents in Ada, Ghana gather to collect water from a nearby community well. More than 2.4 million people die every year from diarrhea and other water-related illnesses because they don’t have safe, sustainable water and sanitation. This crisis persists, in part, because the financial services that could help vulnerable populations pay for water and sanitation remain largely unavailable to the poor. Photo: Gates Foundation.Despite water being fundamental to our existence, many people around the world still lack access to clean water. The enormity of the problem is underscored by its inclusion in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which challenges the global community to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015.

According to Professor Ben Braga, President of the World Water Council, 780 million people still live without safe drinking water and many more without proper sanitation. In an interview with UN Water, he said that Council’s priority was to “universalise the access to safe drinking water and sanitation and to incorporate the idea of water as an engine for social and economic growth.”

Similarly UN Water states that a coherent, coordinated approach is clearly required as water issues represent some of the most urgent development challenges of our time. It underscores the importance of managing freshwater sustainably so that there is enough for everyone to drink and be healthy, so that agricultural producers can provide plentiful harvests and industry can meet its requirements. It is not only a question of meeting our current needs, but with the challenges posed by climate change we will have to adapt and be prepared for increasing numbers and severity of water-related disasters.

According to Braga: “the issue of water and disasters has never received any attention from the UN system in developing the MDGs. The same for building resilience against climate change. We all know that the main impacts of climate change are going to be felt in the water sector.”

]]> (Rommel Caringal)frontpageFri, 12 Apr 2013 10:42:55 +0000
Sensationalism or silence in the Congo: rape, death and the media route to Panzi Hospital in South Kivu, DRC. According to journalist André Thiel, this Congolese woman was kidnapped and raped for six years by Hutu rebels. Despite family support, she and her daughter have been rejected by villagers. Photo: Flickr/andré thiel.Rape and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are in the news. Like the daily global toll of avoidable death and illness, wars which do not obviously involve Americans, Europeans or Israelis usually struggle to be noticed.  However, the recent DRC media coverage has not been universally welcomed.

However one looks at it, media coverage of the Democratic Republic of Congo has not been good. 

In the global media covered by the Alertnet world press tracker, between September 2006 (when the press data begins) and April 2007, there were 1,327 stories on the DRC, whereas the Israel-Palestinian, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts generated 19,946, 29,987 and 43,589 stories respectively.

Yet, a study by the New York-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) across the DR Congo between January 2006 and April 2007 estimated that 45,000 extra people were dying each month from preventable diseases and starvation as a legacy of conflict. That death rate predated 2006, according to the IRC, and showed no sign of abating when the survey ended.

]]> (Frank Humphreys)frontpageThu, 26 May 2011 14:45:32 +0000
Despite progress, 165 million children under five are stunted - UNICEF of Somali NGO SAACID check a young boy's height. Malnutrition over the long term can cause a child's natural growth to become stunted. Photo: Geno Teofilo/Oxfam.Improvements in nutrition and stronger government policies have led to a decline in childhood stunting, according to a new report on child nutrition by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). However, the condition continues to affect some 165 million children under the age of five globally.

Stunting can lead to irreversible brain and body damage in children, making them more susceptible to illness and more likely to fall behind in school. Based on UNICEF’s report, IRIN has put together a round-up of the nutrition situations in six East and Central African countries that are among 24 countries with the largest burden and highest prevalence of stunting.

]]> (IRIN kr/rz)frontpageTue, 16 Apr 2013 12:39:13 +0000
Could a debt initiative for poor countries be applied to Greece? is little prospect of an end soon to anti-austerity protests in Athens. Photo: Barry Gunning.As Cyprus finalises a controversial bailout agreement due to start tomorrow (March 19), its debt-ridden Mediterranean neighbour Greece continues to be crippled by protests. Could a radical solution that was applied to poor countries in the past now work for Greece?

In the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in 1996, international lenders agreed to slash the debts for some nations if they implemented key reforms aimed at stabilising public finances.

For years, the IMF and governments tried to help developing countries with short-term rescue loans but most only started to recover only when their debts were substantially reduced.

The IMF and World Bank have now approved HIPC deals with 36 countries such as Afghanistan, Bolivia, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua - and provided US$76 billion in debt-service relief.

The IMF claims the original aim of the HIPC was “to ensure that no poor country faces a debt burden it cannot manage”. Though Greece is not poor by international standards, the IMF's forecasts suggest the country’s debt will exceed a massive 200% of GDP by 2016.

And the European Commission estimated in October that, despite the multi-billion euro bail-out funds, government revenue will only reach 43.5% of GDP by next year.

]]> (Senan Hogan)frontpageMon, 18 Mar 2013 10:40:30 +0000
Integration and empowerment of women can break the cycle of poverty and discrimination from Rwanda took out a microfinance loan from VisionFund after taking in her nephew Moses who had been abandoned. By trading fruit and expanding her business, she has managed to feed and clothe Moses and send him to school. Photo: VisionFund.On Friday (March 15), the UN Commission on the Status of Women ratified a declaration entitled ‘End Violence Against Women’, matching the theme of International Women’s Day, which was marked earlier in the month. VisionFund’s Dianne Lowther writes about the place of women in the fight against poverty.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” It was another reminder of women’s central role in society and the hardships that too many women face. The World Bank states that violence can be both a result and a cause of poverty and women and children are among those worse affected.

According to the United Nations, women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty as they are more likely to be poor and at risk of hunger due to discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets.

Some estimates suggest that women make up 70% of the World’s Poor and headlines, even in developed countries, indicate that many women face wage gaps compared with their male counterparts. Not only are they often paid less but they can also be relegated to unsafe and low salaried work. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, approximately 8 out of 10 women workers are considered to be in vulnerable employment.

However when these women are given a chance at engaging in economic development, it can have a hugely positive impact on helping families to climb out of poverty. Aid organisations the world over have marvelled at women’s fortitude and determination to strive for their families and build a better future.

]]> (Dianne Lowther)frontpageMon, 18 Mar 2013 09:55:17 +0000
Aid a soft target as EU agrees budget flag at the European Parliament. Photo: Flickr/European Parliament.Spending promises on overseas aid are among the easiest to make and the easiest to break. The world's wealthiest countries promised to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid back in 1970. It is difficult to keep track of how many times that promise has been repeated by European governments, which, with few exceptions, have never yet met the target. (The United States and Japan are less known for repeating their 1970 commitment as they are even further from the target than the European average.)

Nevertheless, there had been hope that EU members would finally meet the 0.7% target in 2015. The latest budget agreement suggest that development aid is still seen as a soft target in European capitals.

The EU budget agreed today (February 8) included substantial cuts compared with the budget proposed by the European Commission in 2011:

The EU Commission proposed €70 billion for ‘Global Europe’ over 7 years (2014-20).
Agreed: €58.704bn
Cut: 16% / €11.296bn

The EU Commission proposed €30.319 billion for the European Development Fund (EDF) over 7 years (2014-20).
Agreed: €26.984bn
Cut: 11% / €3.335bn

]]> (World and Media)frontpageFri, 08 Feb 2013 19:37:44 +0000
Afghanistan: 'You have brought an army into the country but how do you propose to take it out again?' of an Army by Elizabeth Butler portraying William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842.Boxes of dusty books from a Kabul bookstall led author and historian William Dalrymple to realise NATO forces in Afghanistan are on a path first taken by the British Army in 1839.

Dalrymple’s latest book  “Return of a King” uses sources never before translated into English to draw startling parallels between the First Anglo-Afghan War and today’s conflict.

Speaking before an event at Dublin’s Royal Irish Academy, Dalrymple talks of watching American soldiers under attack in Kandahar while holding a diary written 170 years before by a British officer describing attacks at the same bridge.

“There was a sensation in 2006 that history was in a general sense repeating itself but what usually happens is the closer you get to the detail, the parallels dissolve in the face of detailed evidence. What was so weird this time is the details lead to greater parallels,” he says.

In a familiar echo, an Afghan ruler at the time slyly asked a British spy: “You have brought an army into the country but how do you propose to take it out again?”

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageMon, 25 Feb 2013 15:15:08 +0000
'We have to stay, to die. We remain there, we knew they are coming.' to South Sudan outside Lacor Hospital, Gulu in Northern Uganda, where Fr Peter Okello is now based. He dreams of visiting newly independent South Sudan but struggles to forget his experience of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. Photo: Niamh Griffin.Many Irish families have a missionary relative, a visitor who shivers by the fire once a year or less. Ruán Magan spoke to some of these extraordinary ‘Lifers’ for RTÉ last night. However, they are not alone in having sacrificied a family life and put their own lives at risk to bring hope to others.

Travelling in Uganda last year I met an elderly Sudanese missionary who dreams of sniffing the air in newly independent South Sudan. And wishes he could leave his memories of warlord Joseph Kony behind.

Now 83, Fr Peter Okello spends his days on his veranda at the missionary-run Lacor Hospital in Gulu. Still tall and broad-shouldered, he walks slowly but with so many visitors, he hardly needs to move. As we talk mechanics, nurses and other priests drop by to talk or just sit nearby.

In 2008 Fr Peter was one of three missionaries at Duru Mission in the Congo. The Lord’s Resistance Army under Kony was fading then*, but still strong in pockets along the borderlands.

‘The last mission I left, we were forced to leave. We escaped death, we were at their mercy. They took everything away, the rebels, the people of Kony,’ he says.

“The people around the mission did not run away, so according to our rules, if even one person does not run away, then we have to stay, to die. We remain there, we knew they are coming.”

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageSat, 02 Feb 2013 08:07:40 +0000
Malnutrtion deaths down by two-thirds but more focus on prevention needed - Concern Arnold, CEO, Concern Worldwide. Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.Reducing child deaths from starvation can only be done through a combination of government policy and development work, a seminar on food security in Dublin heard Tuesday.

Chief executive of Concern, Tom Arnold said policy changes in developing countries as well as at EU and G8 level have opened the way for more focus on prevention rather than treatment of malnutrition.

“Prevention has to be the key focus, there has to be more emphasis on food security. Malnutrition is an underlying cause for one third of child deaths annually,” he said at the ‘Feeding the World in 2050’ seminar in University College Dublin.

He said much progress has been made, citing a reduction from 20 million children dying in 1980 as a result of lack of food to seven million last year. However, this progress is now under threat because of rising food prices caused by the global recession.

Paradoxically, he said the recession is also focusing policy on nutrition as numerous food riots since 2008 have awakened politicians to the economic problems caused by food insecurity.

The EU will issues a communication on nutrition later this year for the first time, and the G8 Alliance for Food Security focuses on agriculture, also a first for that group of nations.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageThu, 17 Jan 2013 13:51:32 +0000
Irish EU Presidency and the 2014-2020 EU Budget negotiations flag at the European Parliament. Photo: Flickr/European Parliament.On 7-8 February, European leaders will meet in Brussels to seek to reach a deal on the bloc’s next seven-year budget. A first round of talks among EU leaders ended without agreement in November, when plans to cut the EU’s €1 trillion budget failed to get agreement. The talks are headed by EU Council President Herman van Rompuy, but Ireland will need to play a role as a broker for the agreement.

The negotiations for a new multi-annual budget for the European Union seem thus far to have taken place in a vacuum. There is virtually no public debate or media attention for what is likely to be one of the biggest political decisions to be taken in the coming years. - Dóchas

The current Van Rompuy proposals envisage a cut to earlier European Commission proposals of €9.3 billion for 'Global Europe' spending (a cut of 13%) and €3.02 billion for the European Development Fund (a cut of 11%). What is more, Van Rompuy has indicated that he will be seeking an additional €25 billion gross cut in the EU budget, to allow for an increase of €5 billion each in the agriculture and cohesion headings.

'Global Europe' spending covers all external action by the EU apart from the EDF. It includes the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the Humanitarian Aid Instrument, which together comprise over 30% of its budget.

...Read more in the Dóchas briefing paper on the Irish EU Presidency and the 2014-2020 EU Budget.

More links and backgroundwill be uploaded here on the Irish EU Presidency and the 2014-2020 EU Budget negotiations. An excellent starting point is here.

]]> (World and Media)frontpageMon, 28 Jan 2013 09:30:47 +0000
Cheating? Use a condom - new campaign takes blunt approach to Uganda's AIDS ABC Healthcare Foundation 'Uganda cares' campaign poster with the image of a broken heart and the messages 'Cheating? Use a condom' and 'Cheated on? Get tested'. Photo: Samuel Okiror/IRIN.Getting your AIDS message right is not always easy as US NGO, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has been discovering. On Friday, 18 January, Mrs. Janet Kataha Museveni, First Lady of Uganda was the Guest of Honour at the opening of its newest "Uganda cares" health care centre in Lukaya. The new centre is unusual in having an attached commercial and residential complex which is intended to finance the centre as well and to support the local economy. Supporters of the complex held posters which focused primarily on using condoms and getting tested. Using condoms is the "C" in Uganda's ABC campaign. Abstinence and being faithful are "A" and "B".

However, on Wednesday (January 23) IRIN reported that a new "Uganda cares" campaign is causing controversy because of how it bluntly focuses on condoms when an individual is neither abstaining or being faithful, in other words when they are cheating. AHF seems unfazed by the reaction: it tweeted a link to the story noting that its campaign is "making waves". Read the IRIN story below. - World and Media


[KAMPALA] A new Ugandan HIV-prevention campaign that frankly addresses sexual infidelity is generating heated debate over the direction the country's HIV strategy should take.

Billboards erected in various parts of the capital, Kampala, by Uganda Cares - a programme of the US NGO AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) - bear the image of a broken heart and the lines "Cheating? Use a condom" and "Cheated on? Get tested".

The campaign aims to address the growing vulnerability to HIV of couples in long-term relationships. Studies show that some 43 percent of new HIV infections in Uganda occur in such unions.

]]> (World and Media / IRIN so/kr/rz)frontpageSun, 27 Jan 2013 21:03:18 +0000
The hospital in a cave - MSF forced to work in secret locations in Syria surgeon and president of Médecins Sans Frontières UK, Prof Paul McMaster has been carrying out surgery in this cave, somewhere in Syria. Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières.As the conflict continues in Syria, hospitals have become a target making the work of medical charities more urgent than before, according to one agency working there.

Médecins Sans Frontières reported Monday (January 14) that hospitals in a town near the Turkish border are no longer usable, and the same is true of other towns in the country.

The head of mission for Syria told MSF Ireland: “Even after the airstrikes on medical facilities in the Aleppo region, local doctors and nurses remained committed to providing medical care and are doing their best to help the population.”

Speaking at an MSF event in Dublin shortly before Christmas, retired surgeon Prof Paul McMaster said bombing has wiped out two-thirds of Syrian hospitals.

Recently returned from Syria, he carried out surgery while working in a cave. Describing the cave as damp and chalky, he said the sound of nearby bombing could be quite clearly heard as he worked.

“I’ve never been under such consistent bombing. The helicopters fly and hover over the village, the Syrian call them butterflies. They carry drum barrels filled with metal and pieces of reinforced concrete – shrapnel bmbs.

“Then the barrels drop, the boom reverberates between the mountains, the valley and ground. Boom … the whole place shakes,” he said.

Prof McMaster said he removed large pieces of shrapnel from babies and children. While MSF treat fighters from both sides, he said the majority of their patients are civilians.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageThu, 17 Jan 2013 20:07:57 +0000
EU announces new more cost effective and efficient policy to prevent crises from happening, one of the poorest districts of Amhara, a region in Northern Ethiopia. Deforestation, soil depletion and erosion have increased the area’s proneness to droughts and flooding. The Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the Austrian Red Cross, financed by the Austrian Development Agency, are running a 3-year project that aims at building resilience and promoting community action. Photo: Flickr/EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.A new policy on increasing resistance to disaster in developing countries was announced by EuropeAid today (Wednesday).

Commissioner for Development Andris Pilbags said it is time to tackle the causes of crises rather than just responding when they occur.

“This is not only more efficient but also much cheaper. In times of economic hardship, more than ever, we must make sure every euro is spent in the most efficient way; both for the people we support on the ground and for EU taxpayers,” he said.

Announcing the policy along with Commissioner for Humanitarian aid, International Cooperation and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, he said natural disasters can delay or even destroy development work done by the EU.

Ms Georgieva said the effects of disasters are magnified by climate change, demographic growth and urbanization. “If we want our assistance to be effective and cost-efficient, we must not just put a bandage on the wound, we must help find a cure,” she said.

The policy is a ten-step programme including early-warning systems, risk management, support for affected countries to design resilience strategies and partnerships with local insurance industries.

]]> (Niamh Griffin)frontpageWed, 03 Oct 2012 20:41:18 +0000
Hunger: Irish and experts focus on children, research and small farmers at Port-au-Prince’s general hospital, where the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and NGO Concern have teamed up to create a new nutrition centre for malnourished children. UN Photo/Logan Abassi Cameron may have neatly put down Mitt Romney's criticisms of the London Olympics but the UK Prime Minister's performance as host of next Sunday's hunger summit can only be judged in the long-term.

When it comes to choosing priorities, there is growing evidence that a focus on child nutrition and small farmers, could be the best ways to tackle hunger. Both are current priorities of the Irish Government.

Last May, a panel of five leading economic experts – four with nobel laureates – set priorities among a series of proposals for confronting global challenges. Based on a cost-benefit analysis, the top priority of Copenhagen Consensus 2012 was given to bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in pre-schoolers. It found that each dollar spent would yield a 30-fold return. Sixth on the list was research and development to increase agricultural yields.

A report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (published the following day) found that targetted funding for smaller farmers could be the most effective way to decrease hunger-related problems in developing countries.

The report “Reducing the risk of food and nutrition insecurity among vulnerable populations” calls for a percentage of all aid to be set aside for “resilience-building programmes.”

Projects aiming at supporting agriculture and tackling child malnutrition the developing world were launched in Dublin in the same month.

Tánaiste and Minister for foreign affairs Eamon Gilmore announced a funding boost of €8 million for international projects focusing on agricultural research and improving conditions for small shareholders.

“Through the Irish Aid programme, Ireland is investing in cutting-edge agricultural research to increase the yields of poor farmers and support them to build better futures for their children,” he said.

]]> (Niamh Griffin, Frank Humphreys)frontpageFri, 10 Aug 2012 11:57:42 +0000