A new crack team of humanitarian experts will be ready to be deployed to a disaster zone by the Autumn, the Government said today.
A national recruitment campaign to assemble the Rapid Response Corps has so far attracted 64 big-hearted volunteers including engineers, medics and IT experts.
The squad can be scrambled at 72 hours notice and will provide humanitarian aid with UN agencies for up to three months.
The need for the Corps was highlighted during the 2004 tsunami in south east Asia when Irish people donated up to €100m but the Government could only send a handful of Garda and Army personnel.
A group of 24 members of the new Corps have now completed pre-deployment training and are receiving medical advice and vaccines to enable them to be deployed anywhere in the world.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said: “I am very pleased with the response received and more particularly the depth, breadth and range of experience of the individuals who applied as well as their willingness and enthusiasm to be involved.”
The remaining members of the Corps will undergo training at the end of August.
The Irish Government has already signed a formal standby partnership agreement with the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Similar pacts will shortly be agreed with two more partner agencies – the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The Corps personnel won’t be paid a salary but will receive a daily subsistence rate and all training, travel and accommodation costs will be covered.
Firms like ESB International, the HSE, Google and Microsoft are believed to be involved in seconding employees to the team.
The recruitment campaign was launched in February.
“I am confident that this initiative will substantially enhance Ireland’s humanitarian response to future humanitarian emergencies”, added Mr Ahern.
“This frontline initiative could mean the difference between life and death for victims of international disasters.”
The Corps is part of the wider Rapid Response Initiative announced by the Government in its White Paper on Irish Aid last year.
The Initiative involves stockpiling humanitarian supplies like tents, blankets and kitchen utensils in Brindisi in Italy as well as the Curragh.
The Government will also boost the capacity of UN, Red Cross and NGO partners to respond to humanitarian emergencies