Gilmore warns UN of ‘future shocks’

EAMON GILMORE has praised the progress made in the battle against under-nutrition in the developing world but warned that once the crisis ends, many people will remain vulnerable to “future shocks”.

The Tánaiste was addressing a meeting on nutrition at the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday.

“There is now a global recognition that short-term relief must be situated within a longer term strategy to reduce the vulnerability to hunger,” he told the gathering of more than 400 at the UN headquarters.

Attendees included US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who both praised Ireland for its leadership on the issue.

“Undernutrition is one of the most pervasive and yet least addressed problems of global development,” said Mr Gilmore.

“This is simply unacceptable given that we now have the knowledge, and the means, to entirely prevent it. As we assemble here today some 12 million people — nearly three times the population of Ireland — are severely hungry in the Horn of Africa.

“Ireland, with other partners, is responding to this terrible crisis with immediate relief and direct assistance. However, when this crisis has finally passed, the vulnerability to similar future shocks will remain.”

Irish Aid, a Government programme of assistance to developing countries, is set to spend €659 million this year in the fight against hunger, poverty and exclusion.

A year ago today, a joint initiative, the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, was launched by the Irish and US governments and the spike in interest from other states was notable yesterday, according to Junior Development Minister Jan O’Sullivan, who accompanied the Tánaiste to New York.

“We have almost 20 countries signed up to it now,” she told the Irish Examiner.

“You can really tell it has taken on a life of its own, a lot of countries are starting to see the benefits of early nutrition.

“It’s not just food either, agriculture is vital too,” Ms O’Sullivan added. “The movement is very much focused on early childhood. Nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of childhood is vital for brain and physical development and any damage is irreversible after two years of age.

“We led the way with this as a nation last year and we can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved.”

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the Tánaiste told a meeting on Libya that the revolution there was a “watershed moment in the unfolding story of the Arab Spring” and welcomed the fall of “the cruel and oppressive Gaddafi regime”.

“This was started by Libyans and ended by Libyans fearlessly insisting on their right to freely express opinions, to live without fear and to claim back their country,” Mr Gilmore added.

“This is what Libyans have demanded, from the very first brave protests in Benghazi in February. And I have no doubt that this is what the Libyan people, with the support of the international community, will now work hard to build.”

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