Written Answers. - Sudanese Famine.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives, if any, taken with a view to alleviating the suffering of the people of southern Sudan; if he has been in touch with the United Nations recently regarding this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22306/98]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which development aid can be diverted to assist in southern Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22307/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 88 togeher.

In 1998 Ireland has provided emergency assistance totalling £1.4 million to Sudan. This year's assistance is a continuation of our consistent support to the international humanitarian relief effort through the UN and Irish and international NGOs.

During my visit to Sudan in August it was obvious that, in order to avert a famine, a large volume of humanitarian assistance will need to be provided for at least the next 12 months. The Government will continue to exert pressure on the relevant parties to ensure that they will maintain adequate humanitarian access over such time as proves necessary to protect the people of south Sudan. A technical mission from the Department of Foreign Affairs is currently in the region to monitor the impact of resources given so far this year and to plan for 1999.

However, the provision of humanitarian assistance must take place alongside constructive moves towards a political dialogue leading to a negotiated settlement. During my visit to the region in August I discussed this issue with both sides in Sudan and with the regional IGAD peace initiative through its Kenyan chair. The Government will continue to work with all the relevant parties within the region, and of course within the EU and the UN, with regard to political progress and humanitarian access.