Trócaire Blog


November 27, 2015

5 reasons to join the climate march on Sunday

This Sunday, Dublin, Cork and Belfast will join over 150 cities around the world in hosting climate marches, where people will call on political leaders sign a global agreement to tackle climate change at the UN Climate Summit that begins the following day in Paris.

Enda Kenny will address the UN Climate Summit on Monday morning and the march organisers, including Trócaire and the Stop Climate Chaos network, are hoping to send the Taoiseach to Paris with a loud message ringing in his ears. 

Here’s five reasons why you should join the marches on Sunday.

1. Floods

Ireland has suffered extensive storm damage over the last number of years, and it is only going to get worse. 

The most recent flooding came last month when the River Lee burst its banks and badly flooded parts of Cork. The previous month, millions of euro worth of damage was done in West Cork by floods. Huge money is being invested in flood plans for Cork due to the increased frequency of rivers bursting their banks in the county. 

But it’s not just Cork that is at risk. Waterford and Galway are two other urban centres at high risk of flooding, while Dublin has also seen regular flood events. 

Coastal areas of Dublin such as the Docklands, Sandymount and Clontarf have experienced bad flooding over recent years, as have many inland areas, such as Kilmainham and Harold’s Cross, due to rivers and canals bursting their banks. Experts such as Professor John Sweeney of Maynooth University warn that these flood events are set to become more frequent over coming years as sea levels rise and increased amounts of rain falls in short periods of time.

A report released earlier this year listed 24 areas of Dublin as being particularly vulnerable. Minister Simon Harris says Ireland needs to invest €100m a year in flood defences. That will mean more walls like the sort that is currently causing controversy in Clontarf.

Since 2000, an estimated €700m has been paid out by insurance companies over flooding around the country, and that figure is set to rise dramatically as the frequency of floods increases.

Trócaire volunteers stage the UN Climate Summit at Dollymount Strand
Trócaire volunteers stage the UN Climate Summit on Dollymount Strand to highlight the rise in sea levels during 20 years of failed climate negotiations.


2. Sustainability

People often view responding to climate change as having negative impacts on their lives but there are many potential positives that can make our cities better places to live.

Transport – along with energy and agriculture - is one of the ‘big three’ sectors that account for Ireland’s greenhouse gas pollution. Reducing the footprint of our transport sector will involve massively investing in public transport, making the city safer for cyclists and encouraging people to live in the city centre where they are less dependent on cars, thus reducing traffic and making our cities more 'people focused'.

This shift in attitudes towards urban life could revitalise huge areas of our cities, bringing people and businesses into currently neglected areas.

3. Responsibility

You often hear people say it: ‘We’re just a small country, nothing we do matters until China, India and America tackle the problem.’

That argument misses the point spectacularly. 

On a per capita basis, we are the 36th highest polluters in the world, higher than China or India. In fact, our emissions are so off the charts that each Irish person emits as much 80 people in sub-Saharan Africa.

If we don’t take responsibility, why should others?

4. Jobs

It is accepted that the world is going to have to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy during the first half of this century. That gives enormous potential for jobs and investment in Ireland.

Ireland currently spends approximately €6bn per year importing fossil fuels, leaving us with one of the highest import dependency levels in the EU. In order to meet EU targets, we are simply going to have to divert increasing amounts of that money into the Irish renewable market.

It is estimated that the renewable energy sector should create 50,000 direct jobs in Ireland, while improving energy efficiency in the residential sector could create 7,000 jobs.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) last year estimated that the renewable energy sector in Ireland had saved the country €1bn over five years.

People dig for water in a dried up river bed in Kenya

People dig for water in a dried-up river in northern Kenya. Droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe in the region.

5. Because it’s the right thing to do

There are lots of internally focused reasons to care about climate change, but the biggest reason of all is that hundreds of millions of people around the world are suffering its impacts right now.

The damage we see from occasional floods is nothing compared with the chaos being inflicted across Africa, Asia and the Latin America. At the moment, 8.2 million people in Ethiopia and 2.8 million people in Malawi are experiencing severe food shortages due to drought.

This is the brutal reality of rising temperatures and prolonged drought – these are the people we are marching for.  

Sign up for the march in Dublin, Cork and Belfast.

November 26, 2015

The Gift of Water in Malawi

Sitting under a tree to shelter from the relentless sun, Mary speaks about her worries. 

She speaks slowly and softly, choosing her words carefully. 

It’s about the rain, she explains. They don’t get much of it anymore in her village in southern Malawi, and when it doesn’t rain they can’t grow crops. 

The rain used to arrive each November and last until February, but over the last few years it hasn’t come until December, sometimes even January, and when it does come it lasts only a few weeks. 

The fact that we are sheltering under a tree tells its own story: this is supposed to be the rainy season in Malawi but there are bright blue skies and it is almost 40 degrees Celsius. 

This is the practical reality of climate change: farming people in one of Africa’s poorest countries going hungry while they wait for the sky to give them water.

“Climate change has really affected us,” says Mary. “I often wonder what the future will be like for my children. I have so many pressures in my life. Climate change has brought so many problems on us.”

Mary Belo in southern Malawi

Mary Belo (left) and her friend Emily Nota on their drought-affected land in southern Malawi. Almost three million people in Malawi are experiencing food shortages due to the lack of rain. 


The lack of water is the single biggest driver of hunger throughout the developing world. As rain patterns change, people like Mary who are reliant on the rain to grow food are facing increasingly long periods of hunger. 

Almost three million people in Malawi are currently experiencing food shortages due to drought. In Ethiopia, the figure is over eight million. 

Trócaire has installed a water pump into Mary’s village. The pump means that the people there have access to clean drinking water all year round, instead of being forced to walk several miles to get dirty water from the local river. 

The pump is a life-line for them. Even during the current drought, they have managed to carry water from the pump to near-by fields, allowing some crops to grow. But the fields far away from the pump stay dry and lifeless. 

“The water pump has really changed our lives,” says Mary. “Before it was installed we had to get all our water from the local river and there were lots of diseases but now we have clean water in the village. It has made a really big difference for us.”

Children at a water pump in southern Malawi

Children using the Trócaire-installed water pump in Mary's village in southern Malawi. "“The water pump has really changed our lives," says Mary.


Solving these water crises involves local and global action. 

On the local side, Trócaire can continue to install water pumps and irrigation systems, while also training communities on soil management techniques that retain water most effectively. 

You can support this work by buying the Gift of Water this Christmas. This simple gift will allow us to deliver clean, reliable water to people like Mary who are living through drought. 

On the global level, we need political action to combat climate change. The temperatures in Malawi have risen by almost one degree Celsius since 1960 but under current projections they are expected to rise by up to five, and perhaps even six, degrees by the end of this century. It is difficult to see how anybody could continue to live in villages like Mary’s under such a situation. 

This Sunday, Trócaire and the Stop Climate Chaos coalition will host a series of marches in Dublin, Cork and Belfast calling for political action to address this crisis. 

Join us and add your voice to the calls to make our world safe. 

Buy a Trócaire Gift this Christmas to help families in the developing world. Order online or by phoning 1850 408 408 (ROI) or 0800 912 1200 (NI)​

November 25, 2015

Transforming men’s attitudes and behaviours to end violence against women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which marks the beginning of the international 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign (from 25 November to 10 December).

Today also marks the 10-year anniversary of the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence (ICGBV) of which Trócaire is a proud member. In celebration of both events, the ICGBV today held a seminar at the Royal Irish Academy.

Titled “Standing Up, Speaking Out: Transforming Men’s Attitudes and Behaviours to end Violence Against Women”, the seminar explored how engaging men and boys can be an effective tool in the fight to end violence against women and girls. It brought together global perspectives on transforming men’s attitudes and behaviours to end violence against women and girls from organisations working in Malawi, Lebanon and Ireland.

The keynote speech was delivered by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, who has previously shown his solidarity for gender equality as a Global HeForShe Champion.

In his speech President Higgins highlighted the opportunities offered by the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG number 5 which aims to 'Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls'

He noted that the other SDGs cannot be achieved unless we eradicate violence against women and girls and that we need to engage men and boys to reconceptualise masculinity and sexuality.

Other speakers today included Minister Sean Sherlock, Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North South Co-operation; Anthony Nabil Keedi, Programme Manager – Masculinities Unit at ABAAD: Resource Center for Gender Equality, Lebanon; Orla O’Connor, Director National Women’s Council of Ireland; and Dominic McSorley, CEO with Concern.

Transforming attitudes and behaviours in Malawi

Yesterday, Trócaire Malawi co-hosted a related event which was attended by the country's Minister of Gender, Patricia Kaliati, Alice Harding, from UN Women, and Aine Hearns, Irish Ambassador to Malawi, who opened the event reading a speech from President Higgins. 

To mark this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, Trócaire and fellow NGOs based in Malawi: Action Aid, Concern, Goal, and Self Help Africa, put together a special exhibition showcasing their work with men to transform attitudes toward gender-based violence. The exhibition is being shown in both Ireland and Malawi (four images and stories from the exhibition feature below).

Chimwavi from Salima, Malawi

Chimwavi has held his Chieftainship position for fifteen years and presides over 600 households in twelve villages of Salima, Central Malawi.

He first became aware of the issues facing women five years ago. Today Chimwavi declares “many women are experiencing violence through cultural and religious practises in the area, but in my role as a leader and as a Chief I have a responsibility to ensure that such practises end.”

It is clear that Chimwavi has been taking his responsibility seriously. Over the past five years Chimwavi’s community has been very proactive in tackling destructive traditions such as violence in the home, child marriage and traditional initiation ceremonies for boys. More recently there was a successful education drive to end the practice of evicting a woman and her family from their home when her husband has died.

In the past Chimwavi had the power to adjudicate over even the most serious of gender based violence cases but he has passed this power to the authorities. “We know our role,” he says “I no longer handle cases of rape or sexual violence; these need to go through formal legal agencies. This not a threat to my authority. I feel good that justice is being served.”

Boston Kaluwa, Malawi

Boston Kaluwa (34) is married with three daughters. Perhaps this inspired his work as a volunteer educating his community about equality for women.

Women in Boston’s community are vulnerable to violence, are being married off as children for dowries and being taken out of school earlier than boys to provide household labour. Boston is working with the community to end these traditions and the behaviours that support them.

For example “until recently it was not done for a husband and wife to walk together side by side in public”. Boston says “this was viewed as a weakness on the part of the man; that he was under his woman’s control. Breaking through these stereotypes was a big breakthrough for me”. Breaking through stereotypes like this is a first step towards ending traditions that disempower women and girls.

Increasingly, violence and attacks on women are being reported through Boston to community authorities and the police and 19 cases have been referred in the last two months. Boston is proud of what has been achieved. At home, his wife Mercy is much happier. “Recently she hugged me and thanked me for being a role model in our community, the highest form of praise I could receive!”

T/A Maganga. Malawi

T/A Maganga (46) has been a Traditional Authority for four years and presides over 46,000 people in 62 villages in Salima district (Central Malawi).

Maganga states that “in the past women were viewed as minor beings with no rights who existed to be subservient to men. Times are changing and we must change with them. We must share ideas, we must work together if there is to be equality”. 

Maganga has worked with his junior chiefs and the communities to bring about this change and to promote gender equality. Community Parliaments have been established to formulate by-laws which modify or eliminate practises that are harmful to
the wellbeing of the community. The Child Marriage Law is also upheld and girls who are married illegally are returned to their families.

According to Maganga, “Inequality is often promoted in the name of culture, however where our culture does more harm than good we must change it. It’s not easy for people, we grew up like this, but times are changing and we must change too.”

Alfred Chisale

Alfred Chisale, a husband and father of two daughters, leads a team of 29 people, including 17 women, producing Chitetezo Mbaula clay cookstoves. In doing this he is quietly transforming the lives of women and children on a daily basis. 

Thousands of women around Malawi prefer the safer, cleaner and quicker cookstove. It is portable and saves firewood as wood is sourced less often. Chitetezo users are exposed to less smoke in the cooking place, reducing respiratory infections amongst women and children. Women are saving money through buying less charcoal, and they feel they contribute to protecting their local environment.

More than 40,000 families are benefiting from stoves produced by Alfred’s team. Mrs. Effie Sambani is one of the 17 women who have benefited from Alfred’s company, “I started producing Chitetezo Mbaula [cookstoves] in 2012. Since then my life has been much better. I am able to use the money I save to pay school fees and buy food items”. Effie was awarded Best Producer and received a cash prize at Malawi’s Cleaner Cooking Camp in 2015 having produced 1,101 stoves in 2014.

Supporting women’s economic empowerment can help reduce their vulnerability to GBV. Alfred is a HeforShe champion who is actively addressing gender inequality issues and helping to transform the lives of women in Malawi.

Visit the ICGBV website to see the full exhibition.

The ICGBV was established in 2005 as a response to reports of ongoing and systematic sexual violence against women and girls in the Darfur Region of Sudan, with Mary Robinson as its patron since its inception.

November 24, 2015

Halting climate change is our duty as Christians

By Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne and Chair of Trócaire

bishop william crean trocaire
One of the hallmarks of Pope Francis’s Papacy has been his ability to cross religious boundaries. 

Whether commenting on inequality or meeting with groups often excluded from society, his words and actions have resonated meaningfully with believers and non-believers alike.
Pope Francis has focused much attention on issues that are universal to us all and has sought to inspire and offer leadership.
Environmental care is one such universal issue. His recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, which addressed environmental degradation and the dangers of climate change, was addressed “to every person living on this planet”. 

This was a very deliberate move to highlight the fact that the issues covered in the encyclical – in essence, how human greed threatens to destroy the planet on which we live – are fundamental to us all.
The Earth is our shared inheritance. Protecting the Earth is not the duty of any one group. Environmentalism is no longer an issue for environmentalists – it is the rallying cry for anybody who cares about justice, equality and the long-term prospects of life on this planet.
The Christian faith tells us that the Earth was created for the benefit of everyone and that our duty is to pass it to the next generation in good health. We are caretakers of the Earth.
Christian concern over environmental degradation is therefore twofold: firstly, it is evident that the Earth’s condition is worsening and that we are failing future generations; secondly, this degradation is benefitting a minority of people and punishing the great majority, thus the fruits of our planet are not being used equally.
How can we, as Christians, respond to this challenge?  Pope Francis challenges us, first and foremost, to examine our own lives, to live differently so that our planet is not harmed and to ensure that any ecological solution is based on social justice which takes into account the rights of the poor and underprivileged. He also urges us to engage politically with the decisions that affect us all to make our voices heard. 

Climate Change March Poster
On November 30th, political leaders from around the world will gather in Paris to debate a response to a climate crisis that is already impacting on tens of millions of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America who are suffering food shortages due to drought, with many more vulnerable to extreme weather in the form of typhoons, storms and flooding. Rising temperatures are playing havoc with our climate, affecting people all over the world.
Pope Francis draws our attention to the irreparable impact of unrestrained climate change in many developing countries, where people are both more vulnerable to weather extremes and less able to cope with them. There is now agreement amongst all but a tiny minority that this is real, man-made and urgent. We now need political will to take action that will limit global temperature increases.
We need a political breakthrough in Paris next week to begin addressing this injustice. It is essential that the negotiations result in an enforceable agreement that protects our common home and all its inhabitants. An agreement must put the common good ahead of narrow short-term national interests.  After all, in the end, the common good is in the interest of everyone.
Rooted in ethics and morals, this agreement should be based on a vision of the world that recognises the need to live in harmony with nature and human solidarity to guarantee the fulfillment of human rights for all.
We must decarbonise our society by mid-century in order to protect vulnerable people, including future generations whether they are at risk of flooding in Cork or hunger in Malawi. 

This is not an easy task but it is an urgent one. It will involve developing new models of development and lifestyles that are climate compatible. Central to this is putting to an end the fossil fuel era. We must phase out our reliance on oil and coal, and we must do this by the middle of this century. 
We have a moral obligation to rise to this challenge. We must ensure that future generations do not pay a terrible price for our failure to protect this planet.
Ireland must play its role in ensuring the Paris Summit produces a legally-binding global agreement, with ambitious mitigation commitments and actions from all countries recognising their common, but differentiated, responsibilities and respective capabilities, based on equity principles, historical responsibilities, and the right to sustainable development.
On Sunday, November 29th, on the eve of the Paris Summit, people will gather in Belfast, Cork and Dublin to make their voices – and the voices of those without a voice in this important debate - heard on this issue. 

They will come from a wide range of organisations, backgrounds and beliefs, but they will stand together to say that this is a rallying cry we all must answer.
We must reject the language of ‘us’ and ‘them’. We are one human family. This is our one shared home and we are all responsible for keeping it safe.

A shorter version of this article was published in the Rite and Reason column in the Irish Times on Tuesday 24 November 2015.

Further reading:

November 17, 2015

Sierra Leone declared Ebola free

By Michael Solis, Trócaire Programme Manager, Sierra Leone

Nineteen months since the onset of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Sierra Leone has been declared free of the disease.

This was after a period of 42 days — the length of two Ebola incubation cycles — had passed since the last person confirmed to have Ebola was cleared.

The women of Kassirie Mataoi singing and dancing as they thanked us for helping them

Caption: The women of Kassirie Mataoi singing and dancing as they thanked us for helping them support their farm, Kambia District, Sierra Leone.

You can help support families affected by Ebola by buying the Gift of Seeds and Tools for Sierra Leone this Christmas:

To celebrate the occasion, Trócaire organised an event with its 18 partners who have been vital to the Ebola response. The event was a moment of unity amongst partners and acknowledgment of shared achievements. Partners expressed their gratitude to Trócaire for its support and for enabling them to respond to the disease.

“Trócaire was so important because they did exactly what the people needed,” said Sister Mary Sweeney from St. Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired. “People needed things like blankets, mattresses, and food, and Trócaire was there to respond.”

“We thank Trócaire for staying in Sierra Leone when so many organizations were leaving the country,” said Susie Turay, from Access to Justice Law Centre. “Trócaire brought us all together and asked us what it is we could do to respond. When we came up with ideas, like offering psychosocial support in the communities,Trócaire provided us with training to make them happen.”

“Trócaire helped us design a model for developing the livelihoods of quarantined families,” said Ibrahim Fatu Kamara, Director of Action for Advocacy and Development (AAD). “We were then able to replicate that work in other parts of the country.”

The women of Kassirie Mataoi on their farm, Kambia District.

Caption: The women of Kassirie Mataoi on their farm, Kambia District.

Together with its partners, Trócaire helped support 1,750 quarantined households with food and non-food items, provided replacement packages to 720 decontaminated households, offered livelihoods support to 900 families, brought psychosocial support to over 10,000 people, and carried out awareness raising activities across three Districts to prevent risky behaviours that could promote continued transmission.

While a wave of joy and relief has spread throughout Sierra Leone, people still continue to sanitize their hands before entering buildings, and many still hesitate before embracing or shaking other people’s hands, which is now allowed. The population was willing to sacrifice a lot as long as it meant getting the virus out of the country, and now that the darkest days appear to be over, no one wants Ebola to return.

In Sierra Leone, Ebola infected 8,704 people and claimed 3,589 lives. Approximately 4,000 people survived.

Some estimates of the number of orphans (children who lost one or both parents to Ebola) reach up to 12,000 (Source: Street Child), with the average age of orphans being 9 years old.

Over 7,300 people have lost their lives to Ebola in Liberia and Guinea, the other West African nations affected by the epidemic. While Liberia was declared Ebola-free in September, Guinea, where the epidemic began, continues to see new cases. A reported lack of cooperation amongst the population in Guinea with restrictions on handshaking and consulting traditional healers has contributed to the continuation of cases.

The ongoing presence of Ebola in Guinea poses a threat to its neighbouring Sierra Leone, even as the country celebrated its declaration as Ebola-free on November 7th.

Now in the recovery phase, Trócaire and its partners remain focused on the other challenges facing Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is ranked as the 183rd country on the Human Development Index, out of 187, and it is one of the six countries in sub-Saharan Africa with the highest hunger levels. ‘Multidimensional’ poverty and inequality remain extremely high, with 72.7% of Sierra Leoneans classified as multidimensional poor, one of the highest rates in the world. Even though the country is now Ebola-free, the population still struggles to cope with the impacts of Ebola on their livelihoods, communities and psychosocial well-being.

A community farm run by women on Kassirie Mataoi, Kambia District.

Caption: A community farm run by women on Kassirie Mataoi, Kambia District.

While many agencies are unclear of what their role will be in Sierra Leone in the recovery phase, Trócaire is committed to staying to promote the long-term development and dignity in a country full of people who are ready to improve their lives.

You can help support these families by buying the Gift of Seeds and Tools for Sierra Leone this Christmas: