herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Life-saving Irish Aid packages that are bound for human hell

A HUGE open-top container lorry looms in the compound of the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Accra, Ghana.

Young men clamber over the top in the sweltering African humidity, stacking Irish Aid boxes packed with huge canvas tents, mosquito nets impregnated with repellent, kitchen sets, collapsible jerry cans, all bound north for Burkina Faso, where 100,000 refugees are fleeing the current conflict in Mali.

Less than half-a-mile away from where we're standing, a plane flipped over the wall a few days ago, killing 10 -- most of them in a passing bus.

Today life goes on. This is Africa after all, where the nightmare logistics of distribution are almost unfathomable.

Plane crashes, roads blocked by torrential rain, disasters of all sorts can not only be part of the life of the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) out here, they are legislated for and routed daily, sometimes hourly.







Ravaged

We're with an Irish diplomatic delegation headed by Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello who, minutes ago in a tiny office inside the yawning UN warehouse, told representatives of the UN Humanitarian Response and the World Food Programme of Ireland's pledge for €200,000 in additional funds towards training and ongoing running costs.

We walk out through the massive stores, pallet racks towering to the ceiling with every manner of crates and boxes -- and you can't help but put a hand out and run it along the rough surfaces of these things with Irish Aid stencilled there, things which, when next opened, will be somewhere in the very heart of human hell.

The truck is almost full and the minister is invited to load the last pallet with a forklift truck, which he does, carefully skewering a load that was paid for with Irish hands and heaving it into place. You want to feel a part of this operation, to do something. In effect, with Irish Aid, we already are.

We'd already seen the result of the distribution of highly nutritious sachets of lifesaving Plumpy Nut -- a formulated feed for children of age two to five, ravaged by malnutrition as a result of illness or dehydration. That was at the central children's hospital in Freetown, where one in five children die before their fifth birthday, where 320,000 of those who survive suffer chronic malnutrition.

These are the success stories -- and ones Ireland is playing a large part in contributing to -- projects that don't just simply aid, but help address some of the startling infant mortality figures here.

hnews@herald.ie

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