Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Liz McManus

Question:

39 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to offer aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo to assist in the tasks of reconstruction following the recent volcano; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3753/02]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

63 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the Government has contributed to international relief in Goma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4036/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 63 together.

The Government and the Irish people have been shocked by the devastation wrought by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo. That the DRC, a country wracked by a protracted war, and Goma, a city so familiar with hardship, should be the subject of such awesome destruction, added poignancy to the images of despair we all witnessed a fortnight ago. To date, it is estimated that approximately 150 people have lost their lives and 350,000 have been affected since lava began flowing from the volcano on January 17. Over 30,000 people are still in camps and thousands of homes have been destroyed.

The Government's response has been rapid and substantive. On January 21, the Government announced €800,000 in emergency aid to provide much needed humanitarian assistance to the victims of the volcano. This has now been increased to €1 million, recognising the sterling work being undertaken by the Irish agencies in the region, the evolving crisis and reflecting the Government's unflinching commitment to the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.

The €1 million package has been divided between Concern, Trócaire, WorldVision, GOAL and Christian Aid. These agencies have been operating in the Goma area and in Rwanda, to which many of the people displaced by the volcano have fled. The invaluable work of our NGO partners is ensuring that people are being provided with shelter, health care, basic utensils and food. This is in addition to the crucial work being undertaken by the United Nations and the Red Cross organisations in the region. It is also worth noting that ECHO, the European Commission humanitarian office, has made €3 million available for assistance to victims of the volcano.

The Government's €1 million aid package is in addition to €1.33 million in assistance directed at the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2001 and almost €4 million provided for humanitarian needs in the Great Lakes region last year alone. Since the mid-1990s, the Government has been striving to bolster conflict resolution and development in the region by investing heavily in aid and recovery programmes in the poorest parts of central Africa. This is a trend that is set to continue, as the Government's determination to assist the region remains resolute. As always, we shall continue to monitor the humanitarian situation and be ready to act with both focus and purpose when appropriate.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

40 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government proposes to offer emergency relief to the Nigerian Government in order to enable it to respond to the human tragedy caused by a recent fire at an armaments dump in Lagos. [3736/02]

As Deputies are aware, on 27 January 2002 one of the Nigerian army's largest munitions stores exploded in Lagos causing widespread destruction and loss of life. It is understood that most deaths occurred not because of the actual explosions, but as a result of the ensuing confusion. Many people drowned in a canal when they tried to cross to safety and many others died in the stampedes which followed the explosions. It is estimated that 1,000 people lost their lives and that 2,400 families have been displaced.

The Nigerian Red Cross responded rapidly to this disaster and in the first hours 200 volunteers were deployed to assist with the injured. Shelter for the homeless is being provided as well as food, clothing and medical supplies. The Nigerian Red Cross has also established a centre to reunite families and register the missing, particularly children. Over 300 people have been traced using community networks and the local media. On 31 January the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, deployed an emergency team to work closely with the Lagos state authorities, the Red Cross, NGOs and international organisations to provide support in the current crisis. It will also identify critical areas where the international community could be requested to complement local efforts. OCHA will play a key role in co-ordinating the relief efforts. The Irish Government is providing €600,000 to OCHA through Ireland Aid for its work in disaster relief and co-ordination generally in order that it can quickly and effectively respond to situations such as that in Lagos.

Ireland Aid has been assisting Nigeria for many years. These funds are channelled through NGOs, missionaries and community groups with a record of working with the poor. The areas funded include health, education, vocational training, civic education, water, sanitation and maternity care. In the aftermath of the tragic explosion in Lagos the key need will be to help people to rebuild their lives and sustain their livelihoods. The susceptibility of vulnerable communities to disasters such as the Lagos explosions is often a symptom of their poverty and lack of development opportunity. In the case of the Lagos disaster Ireland stands ready to respond in support of local community efforts at rebuilding shattered lives and livelihoods via local projects and programmes. The Irish Embassy in Abuja is monitoring the situation closely and the aid administrator based at the embassy will visit Lagos in the near future.