Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello visits Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana02 June 2012
Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello TD, today begins a week-long visit to three countries in West Africa to see the impact of Ireland’s aid programme.
Minister Costello will visit schools, health clinics and agriculture business centres supported by Ireland and targeted at the poorest communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia. He will also visit a United Nations emergency humanitarian depot in Ghana where Irish Aid maintains stocks of emergency humanitarian supplies for rapid delivery in times of crisis.
Speaking ahead of the visit Minister Costello said:
“Since the end of the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia, both countries have been working to build state systems and create decent lives for their people. Whilst progress has been made, significant economic and development challenges persist and both countries continue to be ranked amongst the poorest in the world.
“Working in partnership with the Governments, the UN and aid agencies, Ireland’s targeted and effective programmes are addressing hunger, reducing maternal mortality and supporting former child soldiers to reintegrate into the community. Ireland is committed to supporting the long-term reconstruction and development of both countries.”
In Sierra Leone, where Ireland focuses on addressing child and maternal under-nutrition and increasing agricultural productivity, Minister Costello will visit an Agricultural Business Centre and meet smallholder farmers who have benefitted from a programme to increase productivity which is supported by Ireland.
He will also visit an Irish Aid-funded programme to tackle severe child malnutrition and a school-feeding programme which provides schoolchildren with one meal per day to prevent malnutrition and increase school attendance.
“Our funding to a programme to treat life-threatening malnutrition amongst children under-five has resulted in a twelve-fold increase in the number of children being treated – from just under 3,000 children in 2007 to 35,000 today. As a result, more than nine in ten of these children are completely cured. This is critical in a country where the terrible toll of child mortality means one-in-five children dies before their fifth birthday.”
In Ghana, Minister Costello will tour the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Accra, where he will see the facilities from where Irish Aid dispatches emergency supplies, such as tents and emergency food, to assist people affected by natural and other disasters around the globe.
In Liberia, where a key focus of Ireland’s aid programme is to strengthen the country’s health systems, Minister Costello will visit an urban health facility to see how Ireland’s support to the Government has contributed to the reestablishment of basic health services for its highly vulnerable citizens.
“Over the last six years Ireland’s support has significantly increased access to basic healthcare for vulnerable communities. This support has been crucial to halving the number of children who die before their fifth birthday.”
Minister Costello will also meet with local, Irish and international agencies who receive funding from Irish Aid to support their work in both countries. This will include a visit to a water and sanitation project managed by Concern Worldwide in Liberia and a community health project managed by Goal in Sierra Leone.
For further information or to request an interview with Minister Costello, please contact Fionnuala Quinlan, Press Officer, Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 087-9099975.
Notes to the editor
- Irish Aid is the Government’s programme of overseas assistance. It is managed by the Development Cooperation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
- Minister Costello will visit Sierra Leone from Friday, June 1 to Tuesday June 5. He will travel to Ghana on Tuesday June 5 until Wednesday June 6. He will then travel to Liberia from Wednesday June 6 until Friday June 8.
- Ireland has had an active engagement in Sierra Leone and Liberia since 2005 having established development cooperation programmes in both countries in that year, with offices and staff in Freetown and Monrovia.
- Sierra Leone is currently ranked at 180 of 187 countries on the 2011 Human Development Index (HDI). Average life expectancy at birth is 47 years and illiteracy is widespread, with 20% of males and only 9% of females having completed secondary education. Two-thirds of the total population live below the national poverty line.
- Liberia is currently ranked at 182 out of 187 countries on the 2011 HDI. Average life expectancy at birth is 57 years and approximately 84% of the population live below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day, with almost half of the population living in extreme poverty.
- Under the Rapid Response Initiative, Irish Aid pre-positions essential humanitarian relief items in Accra, Ghana, which is within the network of UN Humanitarian Response Depots.
- Through this network Irish Aid also stocks supplies in Panama, Dubai, Malaysia and Italy. Depots are located close to crisis-prone parts of the world.