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2017: A year of great upheaval and uncertainty, but also hope for the future

20 December 2017

Trócaire's Executive Director reflects on the past year and highlights some of the important work undertaken by Trócaire and its partners, as well as celebrating the generosity of our supporters.

Antal Abdi Haji has her severely dehydrated son, Rahma, examined by personnel at Akara CTC. Photo: Amunga Eshuchi

Antal Abdi Haji brings her severely dehydrated son, Rahma, to be examined by personnel at the Trócaire-run Akara Cholera Treatment Centre in Somalia. Photo: Amunga Eshuchi, May 2017.

In future history books, this year will largely be remembered as the first of Donald Trump’s US presidency. 

The new American president achieved global news dominance in 2017 – though largely in rebuke of his political style, as well as the regressive policies being ushered in by his administration and the wider Republican Party. 

Climate change

Of particular concern is Trump’s wildly unpopular and reckless decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement

Further to that, just this week the Trump administration dropped climate change from a list of global threats in a new national security strategy unveiled on Monday.

Despite these profoundly damaging actions, other big countries, including China, India and the EU nations, have stated their intention to maintain their climate commitments. 

It is also vital that Ireland plays a positive role in maintaining the obligations of the Paris Agreement, and enacts measures at home to limit the country’s contribution to climate change.

In 2017, we made progress in our efforts to hold the Irish Government to account. Working with TD Thomas Pringle, we helped to craft the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill which is now at the third stage of the legislative process, getting closer to becoming law. This bill requires the government to stop investing public money in the fossil fuel industry and would send a strong message to other national governments if successfully enacted. 

Climate change impacts were felt directly in the developed world this year, through a series of hurricanes and other extreme weather events that caused huge damage and loss of life. But the effects are still small compared to those experienced by people living in the developing world. 

East Africa

In the early part this year, regions of East Africa were on the brink of famine due to prolonged drought

Trócaire scaled up its humanitarian response in South Sudan and Somalia - where the drought situation was compounded by ongoing violent conflict. We are also delivering significant support in affected areas of Kenya and Ethiopia.

Described by the UN as the worst humanitarian disaster since World War Two, the situation in East Africa has been woefully underreported. At time of writing, over 26 million people are facing severe hunger and malnutrition across South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Despite the media largely turning a blind eye to this situation, we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people of Ireland who have donated nearly €5 million to support our humanitarian effort since we put out an urgent call in the summer months. We are now able to reach hundreds of thousands of people with emergency support, and are continuing to scale up our work as much as possible to reach more. 

In addition to the public’s donations, the Irish Government, through Irish Aid, has provided significant funding and material support, including recently shipping 75 tonnes of emergency supplies to Somalia, where Trócaire oversaw distribution.

We also received high profile support from Belfast-based boxing champion Carl Frampton and his wife Christine, who visited our humanitarian programme in Kenya in recent weeks to help raise awareness of the situation there in a series of impactful media appearances in the Republic and Northern Ireland. 

Syria and Yemen

Trócaire continues to support people caught in or displaced by the ongoing conflict in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. 13.5 million people are in need of continuing assistance as a consequence.

Trócaire's response to this crisis is focused on providing emergency food and shelter to communities in Aleppo and Damascus, and supporting people seeking refuge in Lebanon.

Through partners in Lebanon we have funded and offered technical support to relief, protection, education and psychological support services in Shatila Camp, Beirut, and to refugee communities in the Bekaa Valley. 

We also gave support to organisations in Yemen who fought the deadly cholera outbreak in that embattled country earlier this year.

Yemen is a heart-breaking example of an entirely human-made disaster in which conflict and the deliberate blocking of relief has brought the population to the brink of famine and perilously exposed to the dangers of preventable diseases. 

It is one of the greatest scandals of modern times.

Our supporters

Given all of these challenges, we wanted to communicate a message of hope to the Irish public this Christmas.

We finished off the year with the launch of a new campaign ‘Until Love Conquers Fear’ that encapsulates different aspects of our work - supporting human rights, those caught in humanitarian crises, those without access to basic resources, and supporting the empowerment of women. 

The campaign celebrates our supporters who stand shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters in the developing world, helping them to overcome their most difficult challenges.

Thank you for reading and for your continued support for Trócaire.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.