Ahead of the launch of its pre-budget submission today, the aid organisation’s director, Justin Kilcullen, said the Government had cut the aid budget by 24%, compared with the next largest cut of 12% at departmental level, in the Department of Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
The effect of any further cuts, he said, would be to deprive the most vulnerable and desperate of much needed care, such as children learning to walk again after years of chronic starvation, and HIV orphans.
“We are currently spending 48 cent out of every €100 of our national income on overseas aid,” he said. “It is tiny in the mix of all other budget streams. So the Government is only saving a small amount by cutting it each time. The cutbacks to date have had an enormous impact overseas. Trócaire’s expected government funding was reduced by €7m. Because of this, and a simultaneous drop in public donations, we have cut over €10m in spending on our overseas work.
“We are pulling out of Brazil, Tanzania, the Philippines, Haiti, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka by the end of this year; Zambia, Nigeria, Indonesia and Peru by next year. Our Angola office will be closed and the work managed from Mozambique. We have also just made the decision to pull out of Afghanistan.”
Work has also been affected in Burundi, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Honduras, Pakistan, India, Thailand and Burma.
“In all of these countries, communities that legitimately expected our aid would continue in coming years now face a very uncertain future with few resources of their own to compensate,” he said.
The Government has come in for sharp criticism over its decision to cut the level of ODA, but it has argued that the amount of funding provided is still extremely high by international standards.
Mr Kilcullen said not only has Ireland received €40bn in EU aid in the past 35 years, billions of euro are now being used to “prop up the banks”, instead of the money being used to reach the EU target of spending 51 cent in every €100 of national income on ODA.
“The Irish Government’s aid programme and its recognition as an effective and generous donor has contributed greatly to its strong international reputation,” he said. “Savings made through further cuts to overseas aid will have a marginal impact on our own problems while having a devastating impact on the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.”
He cited the case of six-year-old Bosco Ntakirutimana, who is being cared for by Missionaries of Mary in Rwanda. Due to malnutrition the child has the appearance of a two-year-old, Mr Kilcullen said, but “the cutbacks mean that Trócaire is being forced to reduce funding to the clinic that kept Bosco alive”.