All our lives have been touched in recent weeks by the events in the Indian Ocean region of Asia. We have witnessed the awesome destructive power of nature, the ensuing enormous loss of life and the heartbreak for families and friends of victims. We have also seen the best of human nature demonstrated in the global response to the disaster. My colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, saw the devastation at first hand and has already reported on the matter to the Dáil.
The emergency phase is slowly coming to an end. The immediate and initial focus on saving lives and recovery of the dead has been completed. Many thousands of survivors remain in temporary accommodation in public buildings and in some camps. These people will continue to require assistance for some considerable time to come. The Government is supporting key NGOs and UN agencies in meeting the immediate needs of these displaced persons.
India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand have all been badly affected by the disaster. The death toll in Indonesia is more than 225,000; in Sri Lanka it is more than 30,000; in India, more than 10,000; and in Thailand the figure exceeds 5,000. These figures are shocking but they do not adequately convey the sense of loss of the families and communities which have been decimated. The physical reconstruction can get underway soon. However, rebuilding the lives and livelihoods and a sense of community will take enormous effort, time and assistance.
The Government has allocated €20 million for the relief of the victims of the tsunami crisis. Some €10 million is additional funding to the budget for overseas aid announced in the Estimates for 2005. The remainder will come from the Government's emergency humanitarian assistance fund, which is specifically designed to be flexible in order to respond to disasters and crises wherever they occur.
As far as disbursement of funding is concerned, approximately €9.5 million has been approved by me so far in response to requests. This funding will be used to meet immediate and ongoing humanitarian needs in the affected communities. Contracts are currently being processed and payments are being made.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Ireland's assistance is targeted at the most vulnerable populations in the affected region. The key areas being addressed are food assistance, shelter, livelihood rebuilding, care and protection of children, water and sanitation.
The technical team appointed by the Government to visit Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand to assess the immediate and long-term needs of these countries post-tsunami has now returned. The team's preliminary assessment is currently being studied with a view to guiding Ireland's medium term strategy in the worst affected countries. As the region moves away from an emergency response to one oriented towards recovery and reconstruction, further funding will be made available. This will take account of the recommendations of the team and will be in line with emerging needs and priorities in the countries concerned.
Former Minister of State, Mr. Chris Flood, the current chairman of the advisory board of Development Co-operation Ireland, has been appointed by the Government as a special envoy to the region to monitor Irish funding. He will track the use of Ireland's funds and ensure that these are employed in line with best international practice.
The Government remains strongly committed to achieving the UN target for expenditure on ODA. In the coming months, Development Co-operation Ireland will launch a consultative process that will lead to a Government White Paper on development assistance. All interested stakeholders will be asked for their views. The issue of how best to meet the UN target and in what timeframe will be taken into account in the preparation of the White Paper.