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MacLochlainn urges Minister to prioritise boreholes in drought-ridden Horn of Africa

14 July, 2011 - by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pádraig MacLochlainn said he welcomed the Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s openness to consider his proposal to prioritise the repair and resuscitation of existing disused water boreholes in the drought-ridden region.

Deputy MacLochlainn was speaking in response to a reply from the Minister of State for Trade and Development's to his question on the current humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa during Foreign Affairs Priority Questions,

He said:

“Ten million people face starvation in the drought-ridden region of the Horn of Africa. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when Ireland’s economy was on its knees economically like today, Ireland’s overseas aid consisted mainly of digging wells and using the sustainable windlass and bucket principle to provide clean water to small communities – and hand pump wells for larger rural needs. In simpler times, the basic need for clean water to grow crops and provide health and sanitation services was self-evident.

“Today, with the UN’s annual target of 0.7% of national GDP dedicated to foreign aid to be reached, the disbursal of vast sums of Irish Aid becomes problematic. The design and implementation of individual projects for needy communities requires time, structure and expertise.

“Given the UN has called on the world to assist in this crisis by aiding in the supply of water, Ireland could consider spending our aid money effectively in these economically stressed times in several ways.

“In tandem with NGOs already working in the area of water supply and sanitation, Ireland could prioritise Irish Aid money in countries affected by the drought in The Horn of Africa to the resuscitation of abandoned and disused bore holes in the region immediately.

“We could recruit at home unemployed Irish engineers as a volunteer force to carry out the work. This would achieve two goals: it would help save lives of millions of people now threatened with starvation and it would give unemployed Irish engineers valuable life and work experience. The cost to Irish Aid would be minimal (transportation and living expenses in the affected areas).

“Further digging of new wells in areas where this work has not been previously carried out could proceed. The Africa Heartland Project estimates the total cost at approximately $6,600 per new well.

“It needs to be acknowledged that local people are astute and well able to take advantage of locally based projects. The growth of family and community wells would lead to more productive vegetable plots, increased food availability, healthier families and increased local income. This market-driven economy would start, not at the bank, but at the local food market.

“I welcome the Minister's response to my comments and her commitment to raise my points in discussions with Irish NGOs.” ENDS

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