The Minister of State for International Development and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, TD, today announced €27,139,040 in Irish Aid funding to Concern Worldwide (Concern) for its development and humanitarian work overseas, as well as for public engagement and development education work in Ireland.
Announcing the funding, Minister Brophy said:
“I am very happy to confirm this year’s Irish Aid funding to Concern, a longstanding partner whose work focuses on reaching the most vulnerable people and societies across the world.
“Concern’s track-record improving the lives of those furthest behind and driving development aligns with my priorities for Irish Aid and those of the Government.
“Concern’s leadership on food security, nutrition and health is world class, and is needed in this time of pandemic and hunger. I look forward to continuing our partnership this year.”
Minister Brophy added:
“COVID-19 has challenged us all. In developing countries where many people were already struggling, their needs have increased exponentially, primarily due to the pandemic. I was very pleased to see that Concern swiftly adjusted their programmes in response to the pandemic ensuring immediate support reached communities across the 20 countries of their Irish Aid programme.”
Concern, the largest development civil society organisation in Ireland is responding to emergencies and implementing long-term development programmes globally across 20 developing countries. The funding announced by Minister Brophy will enable Concern to deliver long-term development programmes focusing on food security, nutrition, health and education for the extreme poor across twenty countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Concern is responding to the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world’s poorest countries where it works as new waves of the virus wreak havoc.
16 April 2021
Notes to Editors
- Ireland’s Overseas Development Assistance Programme is managed by the Development Cooperation and Africa Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs. For further information see www.irishaid.ie
- This funding will be provided through three complementary funding mechanisms: the multi-annual Programme Grant II scheme, the Department’s largest civil society fund, supporting Irish-based civil society organisations (CSOs) engaged in development work overseas and in public engagement and development education in Ireland (€66 million), the Humanitarian Programme Plan which provides funding for chronic crises (€15.7 million) and the ERFS which will enable rapid responses to sudden onset acute crises (€4.5million).
- Concern’s programme countries are: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, DPRK, DRC, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria.
- The other organisations in receipt of this Programme Grant funding are: Trócaire, Self Help Africa, Christian Aid Ireland, Oxfam Ireland, Sightsavers Ireland, World Vision Ireland, Plan Ireland, Action Aid Ireland, Helpage, Children in Crossfire, Frontline Defenders and Vita, as well as GOAL which has a Strategic Partnership with Irish Aid covering both development and humanitarian action.
- In September 2021, the UN Secretary General will convene a Food Systems Summit, to explore how building sustainable food systems can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, especially SDG2 ‘Zero hunger’. In December, the Nutrition for Growth Summit will mobilise global action on addressing malnutrition. In April, Concern convened a crucial conference on Community Led Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), the findings of which form a crucial input into the preparations for both global summits.
Case Study – Concern in Central African Republic
Irish Aid has supported Concern’s work in Central African Republic (CAR), one of the world’s poorest countries, since 2014. The Programme Grant enables Concern to deliver Health and Nutrition interventions and support vulnerable communities, reducing the risk to their lives and livelihoods. In 2021, Concern will allocate Euro 1.4 million of the grant to the CAR programme.
CAR, often described as the ‘world’s poorest country’, is dealing with one of the toughest struggles as it faces into the pandemic with a lack of health infrastructure and an unfolding hunger crisis. The information below outlines Concern’s work to support efforts to respond to development challenges in CAR. See also: https://www.concern.net/news/how-fight-covid-19-one-worlds-poorest-countries.
CAR case study images are available at: https://dfa-ie.sharefile.eu/d-s4718b074ef2f4938b9d56387a83b0c53.
A struggling health system
CAR is home to around 4.6 million people. On March 14th 2020, the country confirmed its first positive COVID-19 case. Since then, more than 4,900 positive cases have been confirmed in the country. At time of publication, there have been 63 deaths.
While those numbers may appear low when compared to European countries, what is sure is that CAR’s struggling health system is profoundly ill-equipped to deal with a pandemic of this scale.
Concern has been working in CAR for over six years and the team quickly moved to launch an immediate response to the outbreak in April 2020. With just three ventilators for a country with the population of Ireland, Emergency Programme Manager for COVID-19 Gloria explains that the country lacks even the most basic health structures.
“Sometimes the health centres we are working with are just buildings with almost nothing inside, just few basic materials and three or four village volunteers who are not professional doctors. They don’t have the training and enough technical abilities, especially in the small rural health centres spread around the local villages. In Europe, you use machines. It’s just not possible here where most of the country has no access to energy. The entire system is unfortunately very weak.”
Conflict and hunger
Before COVID-19, CAR was already facing major challenges. In 2018, the Global Hunger Index, published by Concern and Alliance 2015 partner WeltHungerHilfe, listed CAR as the only country in the world with ‘extremely alarming’ levels of hunger.
The country has suffered from frequent coups and periods of violent conflict. The most recent conflict began at the end of 2012 and forced millions to flee their homes. It also caused a surge in hunger levels.
At the height of the conflict, fields in many areas were trampled or burned and for a largely rural population, where growing your own food is integral to obtaining enough nutritious food for a balanced diet, this is a huge problem. Food reserves, seed stores and livestock were also looted, and much of the infrastructure was destroyed.
While conflict is by no means the sole perpetrator of global hunger, it is the main driver and has left the population of CAR in an extremely precarious position facing into the COVID-19 outbreak.
Concern is working to help improve health centres in Central African Republic.
Prevention by education
When the crisis hit in March, Concern’s teams were prepared for action.
Raising awareness of COVID-19 and the simple steps that should be followed to prevent the spread of the virus is key in a country like CAR. Since the beginning of the outbreak, Concern has reached around 30,000 people in CAR with its COVID-19 messaging, both directly and indirectly. This is done in two ways.
In more isolated villages, Concern is identifying and training influential community members on best practice to prevent COVID-19. Once these people are trained, they spread the word to their friends, family and neighbours.
“One person should be able to reach an entire village,” said Gloria.
“By the time this programme is complete, we should have reached around 40 to 50 thousand people with messaging.”
A number of health centres have also been strategically targeted in selected areas. Concern teams train the medical and general support staff on what COVID-19 is and the best ways to prevent it. There is also specific training on cleaning and disinfecting and how to protect people that present with COVID-19 symptoms.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and disinfectant is also provided to each health centre. This programme is possible thanks to support from Irish Aid, the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID BHA) and UNICEF. The BHA-funded project is being implemented as a consortium alongside the NGOs International Medical Corps (IMC), Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and Oxfam, which are coordinating their efforts to fight the spread of the pandemic, in support of the Ministry of Health and Population.
While news of lifesaving vaccines emerged in November, it is likely that these will take some time to reach countries such as CAR. Gloria says she hopes poorer countries have fair access.
“Our staff members are extremely relieved to know that things are moving in Europe and that a solution may be found soon”.
“Africa is always last in line for these things, but I hope that a fair distribution of the vaccine will take place around the world.”