Irish Charities Closing Overseas Programmes Due to Funding Cuts

Irish overseas aid charities are closing programmes, pulling out of some Third World countries and laying off staff as a result of Government cuts in overseas aid.

Catholic aid agency Trócaire has laid off almost 30 staff and pulled out of four countries, while humanitarian charity Concern has cut or curtailed programmes in the 28 countries in which it works and has laid off 500 people in Ireland and abroad.

The Irish overseas aid budget was cut by over 20 per cent or €195 million in the last year. Private donations have also dropped and the McCarthy report has recommended further reductions in overseas aid. Trócaire will receive €7 million less this year than it had agreed with the Government through the multi-annual programme scheme.

As reported in the Irish Catholic, donations have also dropped by 10 per cent, from €33 million this time last year to €30 million. The reduction in funding will result in the charity pulling out of four countries – Zambia, Nigeria, Peru and Indonesia – by the end of the year.

A further five withdrawals had been scheduled for logistical reasons from Brazil, Tanzania, Haiti, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, but these have been accelerated. Among the programmes being lost is one that helps families grow and sell food, one involved in the care of people with HIV/Aids and an emergency assistance programme for communities affected by natural disasters.

Concern has had its budget cut by €8 million and private fundraising has dropped by 7 per cent. It has suspended or cut programmes in most of the 28 countries in which it operates and will make 500 staff redundant, both in Ireland and abroad.

Programmes closed include an agricultural scheme in Angola, affecting 15,000 people, a scheme to provide 35,000 children with adequate nutrition in Bangladesh and an education and hygiene programme for 6,000 children in Haiti.

Justin Kilcullen, director of Trócaire, said the overseas aid budget was “an easy target. The Government has taken its axe to aid and hasn’t appreciated the impact of what it has done”.

Some €15 million in cuts recommended by the McCarthy report would have a minimal impact on Ireland’s financial stability, but a devastating impact on the world’s poor, he said.

Richard Dixon, director of fundraising with Concern, said the charity was very nervous about the year ahead. The response to one-off calls for donations was suffering, he said, and corporate donations and those from wealthy individuals had “gone to the hills”.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power said although he very much regretted the impact which Trócaire said the recent budgetary adjustments was having on its programme, Ireland remained the sixth highest overseas aid donor in the world in per capita terms.

“In light of the current extraordinary crisis affecting our country, this remains a significant achievement”, he said.

Original source: Irish Times