Along with my colleagues, Katherine and Mark, we visited Peter Power TD, Minister of State for Overseas Development, in Leinster House last week. The primary purpose of our visit was to report on what I had seen of the Tearfund and Christian Aid projects in Ethiopia which are supported by Irish Aid, and to thank him for what his government is doing for the poor of our world. While we were with him, he and his officials were taking phone calls as they tracked a convoy of lorries traveling from the Dominican Republic into Haiti with 85 tonnes of food. It was exciting to be close to where the decisions were being taken to ensure that the relief mission was successful.
This week Irish Aid continues to address the needs of the poor people of Haiti. The Irish Times reported that Minister Power was considering a proposal that an Irish Naval Service hospital ship be sent to Haiti to assist with the relief effort. He is discussing the situation with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to see how Irish medical professionals can be best deployed in Haiti.
Mr Power warned that “the risk of infection from delays in carrying out surgery and the spread of disease is enormous and must be dealt with if thousands of further deaths are to be avoided in the coming weeks. The fact that the rainy season is due to begin in March means that the international community has only a limited time to address these issues and avoid a public health catastrophe.”
He also paid tribute to the “extraordinary level of generosity” of the Irish public, saying “their support will mean the difference between life and death for many of those suffering the effects of this disaster”.
The budget cuts in Irish Aid have severely affected the work of Tearfund and Christian Aid in key locations overseas, but the Minister assured us that he would make every effort to maintain the budgets for this year and to see them increase again once the economic conditions improved. As far as these organisations are concerned we say, “more Power to your elbow”!