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Minister Sargent Comments on his Visit to Ethiopia

Speaking on his return from a five-day visit to Ethiopia, Minister for Food and Horticulture, Trevor Sargent TD, commended the work of the communities he visited for their on-going efforts to provide for themselves in extremely challenging circumstances. He expressed his appreciation of the support extended to them by Irish Aid partners, Irish development agencies and the World Food Programme.

"During my stay in Ethiopia I saw at first hand the extent of the challenges facing this part of the world. While I was sobered by witnessing the impact of hunger, I was deeply impressed by the commitment of the people I met at the projects I visited that focus on sustainable agriculture and nutrition."

Minister Sargent visited a wide range of development and emergency relief projects managed by government and non-government organisations, Irish Aid partners, and Irish development organisations and supported by Ireland. Amongst these were a number of emergency relief operations delivered by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

"Dealing with the consequences of food insecurity requires a complex response. I was very impressed to see in action the work of the World Food Programme through my visits to a WFP food depot, and nutritional programmes which deliver support targeted to meet the needs to the most vulnerable sections of society, in particular women, children and those living with HIV/AIDS. The WFP is one of Ireland's main humanitarian relief partners and receives significant funding from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Irish Aid."

The Minister also had meetings with the Ethiopian Minister for Agriculture and with the State Minister with responsibility for Early Warning and Food Security.

"I appreciated the opportunity to discuss with the Ministers the challenging food insecurity situation that currently prevails in Ethiopia and the response to it, including Ireland's contribution. I also briefed the Ministers on the recently published Hunger Task Force report which was commissioned by the Government. I know that my colleague Peter Power TD, the Minister of State for Overseas Development, is determined to follow up on this report by ensuring that Ireland takes on a global leadership role in tackling world hunger. I look forward to playing an active role in supporting this Government priority."

Minister Sargent also met with Dr Teowolde Birhan Gebre Egziabhur, Head of the Ethiopian Environment Protection Authority at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. "I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Dr Teowolde and we had a stimulating discussion on ensuring the availability of good quality seed and on how organic agriculture can make a significant contribution to food security in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa."

Notes for Editors

Minister Sargent visited Ethiopia from 24th to 29th November.

The World Food Programme (WFP) was established in 1962 and is the food aid organisation of the United Nations. It is an aid programme, which operates on the basis of voluntary contributions by donor countries pledged at irregular intervals. The WFP provides food aid primarily to low-income, food deficit countries, to assist in the implementation of economic and social development projects and to meet the relief needs of victims of natural and other disasters. In 2007, WFP fed 86.1 million people including 58.8 million children in 80 countries. Sudan was the largest single country operation in 2007. Currently some of WFP's major operations include: Eastern Africa (Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia) Southern Africa (Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) and elsewhere.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Provides core funding to WFP and Irish Aid responds to requests for emergency funding and supports other activities including the Rapid Response Initiative. The table below shows the increases in Ireland's contributions to WFP since 2002.

Annual contributions to WFP for all activities in Euro (2000-2008)

WFP Funding 2002 (€) 2003 (€) 2004 (€) 2005 (€) 2006 (€) 2007 (€) 2008
(To Date)(€)
DAFF 4,519,745 4,520,072 6,096,985 7,277,242 8,590,508 10,739,523 9,960,000
Irish Aid 4,370,532 3,400,000 4,400,000 6,500,000 16,800,000 14,950,000 11,250,000
Total 8,890,277 7,920,072 10,496,985 13,777,242 25,390,508 25,689,523 21,210,000

Ireland was the fourth highest per capita contributor to WFP in 2007.

The Hunger Task Force was established in 2007 to examine the particular contribution that Ireland could make to tackling the root causes of food insecurity, particularly in Africa. It is made up of national and international experts in the areas of hunger and food security.

The report highlights the threat hunger poses; over 860 million people remain undernourished; almost 3.5 million child deaths are caused by hunger and malnutrition and almost 30% of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa are underweight. To respond to these challenges the Report recommends a focus on increasing agricultural productivity, with a particular emphasis on women who make up 80% of African farmers; a focus on the prevention of maternal and infant undernutrition and an increased priority given at a national and international level to fighting hunger. More information on the Task Force can be found at: www.irishaid.gov.ie/development_htf.asp

Date Released: 01 December 2008