Minister for Overseas Development Peter Power said the recent dramatic increases in world food prices was having a devastating effect on the poor of Africa and he said the international community must not fail to respond.
“Ireland has long had solidarity with the poor. It is imperative that now more than ever we reiterate our commitment to the elimination of extreme poverty,” he said. “It requires a concerted global response by governments and NGOs. The international community must respond with both short term and long-term measures.”
Mr Power was speaking at the launch of a new development agency, Self Help Africa, formed by the merger of Irish organisation, Self Help Development International, and British group, Harvest Help
Both organisations grew out of the catastrophic famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s and both have focused since on long-term development projects in rural communities, rejuvenating agriculture, creating irrigation schemes, developing co-ops and trading outlets, providing schools and training facilities and using local staff rather than ex-pats.
Ray Jordan, chief executive of the new agency, said: “We have to remember the ethos and spirit that got people off their backsides in 1984 and 1985 to help people who lived thousands of miles away,” he said.
“We can’t keep looking back and patting ourselves on the back because there is still a crisis in Africa but it’s absolutely possible to overcome it. There is no reason whatsoever that within one generation we couldn’t have Africa free of the threat of famine. It’s absolutely possible if the international will was there.”
“We have spent tens of millions trying to save lives because long-term solutions were not in place. It was money that had to be spent but now we are trying to put in the long-term solutions.”
The merger of the two agencies means Self Help Africa works in nine African countries. Mr Jordan said the merger would reduce administration costs while increasing capacity.
Mr Power reiterated the Government’s pledge to increase aid levels to 0.7% of national wealth annually by 2012, so that 70 cent of every €100 generated here will go to developing nations.