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Minister Brendan Smith announces donation of €1 million to keep vital food programme for orphans open

Mr Brendan Smith TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with special responsibility for Food, today announced a special donation of €1m to keep open a feeding programme for orphans in Namibia that was close to collapse due to lack of funds. Minister Smith said: "It is critical to keep this vital pipeline of food aid operating and ensure that food continues to reach these most vulnerable children." The donation by the Minister responds to an appeal from the World Food Programme, the UN agency operating the feeding programme.

Ireland is the first country to confirm a donation to the Namibian orphans project since the WFP appeal in November. WFP Executive director Jim Morris expressed his particular appreciation of Ireland's contribution to this forgotten emergency.

In Namibia, WFP's operations to provide food aid to orphans and vulnerable children are close to collapse due to a shortage of donations. The WFP country director, John Prout, confirmed his organisation's gratitude for the donation saying that the timing could not be better. "We are now entering the hunger season which will last through to the next harvest in April/May 2007 so this is the time of year when our target group of orphans and vulnerable children can least withstand a cut in supplies."

Although unprecedented humanitarian relief has prevented serious loss of life in the most recent food crises in Southern Africa, the region continues to face major challenges. Minister Smith said: "The Southern Africa region continues to suffer from ongoing problems of poverty, food insecurity and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Southern Africa has nine of the 10 highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world and more than 3.3 million orphans due to the pandemic."

This donation brings total funding provided by the Department of Agriculture and Food to the World Food Programme to €8.5 million during 2006.

The Department of Agriculture and Food and Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs work together to support the vital work of WFP. During 2006 Irish Aid have provided some €15.5m for WFP operations, in addition to the funding provided by the Department of Agriculture and Food.

WFP Executive Director Jim Morris had expressed his particular appreciation of Ireland's contribution to "this forgotten emergency".

28 December 2006

Date Released: 28 December 2006