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Ireland Launches Rapid Response Unit For International Crises

by Staff Writers
Dublin (AFP) Feb 05, 2007
The Irish government said Monday it was setting up a volunteer rapid response corps of skilled professionals to help with earthquakes, floods and other humanitarian crises overseas. Individual experts from the 50-strong corps within the foreign ministry will be deployed at 72 hours notice for periods of up to three months to assist in the humanitarian response efforts of three of Ireland's United Nations partner agencies.

The corps will assist the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Appeals (OCHA).

Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said the corps was now seeking applications from logisticians, IT experts, engineers, environmental specialists, humanitarian and public information specialists and public health officers.

"We need people with specific skills and experience, who are available at short notice to fill critical gaps," Ahern said.

"The international community learned from the Asian tsunami in 2004 that time was critical in saving lives."

The corps is part of a wider rapid response initiative.

Ireland has already pre-positioned humanitarian supplies in the UN's humanitarian depot in Brindisi in Italy and at the Curragh southwest of Dublin. Supplies of shelter and housing equipment are sufficient for a village of 20,000 people.

Last year, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern pledged that Ireland would double its annual foreign aid budget to an estimated 1.5 billion euros (1.9 billion dollars) by 2012.

In the last 10 years, Ireland's aid budget has expanded more than fourfold -- from 142 million euros (183 million dollars) to 734 million euros (948 million dollars) in 2006.

The corps will be managed by the foreign ministry's Irish Aid section.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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