Trócaire Blogs


March 24, 2017

An Evening with Brendan O’Carroll in support of Trócaire

He’s won BAFTAs and IFTAs for his television comedies and now Brendan O’Carroll is taking on his most important role yet: supporting Trócaire’s fight for justice in the developing world.

An evening with Brendan O'Carroll

The Irish comedy legend is hosting a one-off night of entertainment at Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on April 17th to support Trócaire’s work overseas.

This is a never-before-seen show that will bring Brendan, Mrs. Brown and some her of ‘boys’ together for a night of chat, music, mayhem and craic.

Actor Simon Delaney will host the evening, which will also include favourite characters from Mrs. Brown’s Boys, including Cathy, Rory, Dermot, Maria, Trevor, Mark and Buster.

It will feature archive footage and bloopers, most of which have never been seen publicly before.

The night is being organised by Riverdance founder and Trócaire Ambassador John McColgan.

Tickets for An Evening with Brendan O’Carroll at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre are priced from €25, with all proceeds going to Trócaire.

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March 23, 2017

Improving access to justice for indigenous Lenca community in Honduras

By Santiago Agra Bermejo

One year on from the murder of environment and indigeous rights activist, Berta Cáceres, a Trócaire-supported project launches to empower the Lenca people of Honduras to gain access to the judicial system, and have their rights recognised and protected in a country recently labelled "The Deadliest Place to Defend the Planet" by Global Witness. 

Víctor Vásquez speaks to press at programme launch event. Photo: Trócaire 2017

Víctor Vásquez, Lenca Indigenous Independent Movement of La Paz (MILPAH) coordinator speaks to press at programme launch event. Photo: Trócaire 2017

Víctor Vásquez can’t bend his leg since a bullet fired by a policeman broke his knee in January.

He was supporting a group of peasants threated to be evicted when the police charged. Three others were also injured. Vásquez is getting use to this, as he is the coordinator of the Lenca Indigenous Independent Movement of La Paz Honduras (MILPAH), a groups supported by Trócaire partner the Honduran Centre for Communal Development (CEHPRODEC).

The indigenous people known as the Lenca live between Honduras and El Salvador, and they represent the majority of the population of the department of La Paz (Honduras), where livelihoods and access to resources are threatened by land-grabbing and hydroelectric projects.

The Lenca have lived for a long time in poverty and they have historical problems getting access to the judicial system.

Social and cultural barriers, as well as lack of knowledge and gender discrimination, have kept them out of the system and in turn has increased their distrust of it.

To tackle these barriers, our partner CEHPRODEC, along with the Women Studies Centre of Honduras (CEM-H), and the Relatives of Disappeared Detainees Committee of Honduras, have joined forces in a project to improve the access to justice of the Lenca people of La Paz, through a project funded by the EU Eurojustice programme. 

The project aims to empower the Lenca people, particularly women, to know and exercise their rights and to help them to use the judicial system. It also aims to ensure that the system itself is more aware of the reality and rights of the Lenca people.

120 justice workers will be the direct target of this four-year project, which launched in La Paz in February. The project will end in November 2019, with the aim that by then, the Lenca people would be empowered to use the judicial system to stand up for their rights and lands, and that the justice operators are more aware of the reality they work in. 

The launch event took place just before the first anniversary of the killing of the Lenca leader Berta Cáceres and days after the release of the Global Witness report “Honduras: The Deadliest Place to Defend the Planet”.

berta caceres

Berta Cáceres, the Honduran Lenca rights and environmental rights campaigner, was murdered on 3 March 2016, barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project. As yet nobody has been prosecuted for her murder.

Trócaire’s partners support almost all the persecuted people detailed in that report.

At the launch, Trócaire Honduras' country director Hervé Bund highlighted the rising criminalisation of human right defenders in the country to an audience of judges, civil servants, the regional police chief, and Lenca leaders. 

MILPAH deputy coordinator, Martín Gómez, thanked the Irish for their support and linked the Lenca struggle with Lempira, the indigenous leader against the Spanish colonisers “the Lenca are doing what Lempira did, raising our voice against injustice”.

“They want to silence us, to tame us, they want us to ignore the massacres and murders, but we won’t. Only we can decide what to do with our lands, from deep in the Earth up to the radio spectrum."

José Luis Espinoza of CEPHRODEC said that “Many things that are legal are not fair. A state that goes against fulfilling rights is against history and it is doomed to be a failed state”.

Bertha Oliva of COFADEH said: "Honduras in sinking in a state of fear, silence and neglect. The people need their liberation and to recover what has been denied”.

Oliva highlighted some of the barriers to access to justice in La Paz, like illiteracy, but she called for the building of bridges, not walls.

For her part, Suyapa Martínez, CEM-H coordinator, focused on women, highlighting the startling figure of 500 femicides per year in Honduras, the lack of judicial resolution of the cases, the fact there are crime scene analyses or autopsies, and that less than 2% of the judicial budget goes to fight gender violence. “We need a working rule of law”, she stressed.  

“Without rights, there is no justice”, highlighted Madeleine Onclin, chief of Cooperation in the EU delegation in Honduras. 

March 21, 2017

Cholera and hunger threaten Somalia

“I was on my knees fixing IV drips to people’s arms as they lay on the ground,” said Abdi Tari Ali, who works for Trócaire in Somalia. “I have treated cholera before, but I have never seen anything like this in terms of volume of sick people and lack of facilities.”

Acute diarrhoea and cholera centre in Luuq, Somalia. Photo: Abdi Tari Ali/Trócaire

Acute diarrhoea and cholera treatment centre in Luuq, Gedo Province, Somalia. Photo: Abdi Tari Ali/Trócaire

Abdi Tari Ali has just been in the Gedo region of Somalia. He manages the Trócaire Somalia Programme, but his background as doctor meant he scrubbed up to help overwhelmed staff. “There is no question of normal working hours. Staff are working 24 hour shifts to save lives”.

Trócaire has a 25 year presence in the Gedo region, providing health, nutrition and education. It supports three hospitals, 10 primary health units and four health centres.

“We have two challenges: cholera and hunger,” said Ali. “If the long rains don’t come in April, it will be a catastrophe”.

A famine in 2011 left over a quarter of a million people dead. The current drought, one of the worst in living memory, is far more severe and protracted than one in 2011. Crops have been destroyed. Many villages have been left without water. “They are pastoralists. Their animals have died. They have been wiped out,” said Ali.

“People are walking 90km here because there is water for their cattle or they want to get to Ethiopia,” said Ali. “However the border has been sealed so they are stuck in camps for the internally displaced where conditions are very bad. We have seen 40,000 cases of sick children: malnourished, with diarrhoea, or respiratory infections because they are sleeping without proper shelter.”

The feeding programme for children has increased from 9000 to 12,000 and Trócaire has scaled up in 13 more villages. “We’re completely overstretched,” he said. “Children are the worst affected by the lack of food.  You see straight away from their puffy faces, thin hair and swollen feet and bellies that they are malnourished. If you press down on the skin, you leave a dent. There is no elasticity left.

“We don’t do blanket feeding, instead focusing on the most vulnerable with wet feeding and food baskets. Yet the needs are blanket. We do quick tests for malnutrition for the children as they arrive and put them straight into the feeding programme.”

As well as nutritional support in clinical care locations, Trócaire will increase  school feedings. In 2011, increased school dropouts correlated with high levels of famine, and food interventions at school level are critical for food security and to keep children in school.

Cholera cases are soaring. Conditions in the camps are unhygienic, there is a lack of clean water and people are weak from hunger. One case can infect a whole camp or village quickly. Trócaire has established two cholera treatment centres, where people receive treatment such as rehydration and antibiotics.

“Cholera is easy to treat, but they need to reach us. People are being carried on stretchers or camels 20km. You don’t know how many have died on the way,” he said. “If the patient doesn’t get assistance in six hours, you lose them – 100 percent. Children die even quicker. ”

The 30 beds are not enough for the hundreds of cases.  Medicine is used up as soon as it arrives. “The lucky ones have a bed, but many more are outside,” said Abdi Tari Ali. “We are in urgent need.”

A partner organisation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), is also providing food aid for those displaced. CRS provides cash, transferred via mobile phone, allowing people in rural areas affected by drought to buy food and water.

“We have been able to mobilise at-hand resources quickly, but the situation will require a sustained response for which we greatly appreciate your efforts,” says Lane Bunkers, CRS country representative for Kenya and Somalia.

Camp on outskirts of Baidoa, Somalia

Women and children uprooted by the drought in Somalia built makeshift houses on the outskirts of Baidoa and will receive aid from CRS NGO partners. Photo by Mohamed Sheikh Nor/CRS

CRS’ emergency response focuses on the rural areas in south central Somalia and near the Kenyan border to help keep farmers—many whose livestock are dead or dying—from giving up everything and migrating to overcrowded, strained temporary camps for displaced people.

Activities include installing water points and repairing boreholes and shallow wells; training communities to maintain local water systems; improving the health of livestock through water supply, food and disease prevention; and supporting hygiene promotion activities.

“We knew in December that we were facing a major crisis, but the international community is slow to act. Famine with a massive loss of lives could be avoided with  blanket cash transfers. There is food in the markets, people just need the resources to buy it.  We also need to open the borders to Ethiopia and stop forced repatriation of refugees from Kenya,” said Ali.

The Caritas confederation of Catholic aid organisations will be looking to scale up its response to the food crisis and cholera outbreak with an international appeal supporting both CRS and Trócaire.

This is an edited version of a story first published by Caritas Internationalis, March 2017.

March 16, 2017

Why the Irish flag is a symbol of hope around the world

Sitting in a camp in northern Myanmar, surrounded by people who have had to flee their homes due to violence, there are constant reminders of how far you are from home. 

This is a remote part of a country that was until recently almost entirely cut off from the outside world. The sights and sounds are very different from what we are used to back in Ireland. One thing is familiar, however: the names of the people. 

Standing outside one makeshift home is Patrick. At the home next to him is Mary. In every camp we visit, we meet people with Irish names; people who have never travelled beyond their province of Myanmar but who are named after the people who have for many years delivered education and healthcare to them. 

People in that region have benefited enormously for decades from the support of Irish people. Many of them name their children in tribute to our country. 

It is just one example of how Irish people have had an extraordinary impact across the world and how our country and our flag are known for the goodwill they inspire.

Trócaire's Nicaragua teamTrócaire's Nicaragua team get ready for St. Patrick's Day by showing their colours. 

When I lived in Uganda and Zimbabwe, where I oversaw Trócaire’s projects, nothing gave me more pride than seeing the Irish flag proudly displaying on posters and billboards outside projects that had transformed people’s lives. 

I would visit communities where water wells and irrigation systems were allowing people to grow food. People would ask me where I was from and when I replied their eyes would immediately smile. 

For families living in these communities, the Irish flag came to represent hope. It often flies at projects that are giving families a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. 

Trócaire is enormously proud to be partnering with the Ceann Comhairle’s office and the Thomas Meagher Foundation to build even stronger links between the Irish flag and our projects overseas. 

The Ceann Comhairle’s Africa Project is supporting our work in northern Ethiopia, and the Foundation has generously come on board to support those efforts. Communities we work with in northern Ethiopia are impacted by very severe droughts, so with the help of the Ceann Comhairle Office and Thomas Meagher Foundation we are building irrigation and other systems to improve water access. 

The Irish flag itself is a powerful symbol of what Trócaire works for across the world. The green, white and orange represents peace and co-existence between people. Trócaire brings that message to the communities where we work; communities who have often suffered enormously because of conflict and where healing and mutual respect is needed. 

I have just recently returned from South Sudan, where over three million people have had to flee their homes due to conflict between political leaders. The conflict has led to a famine in parts of the country, with the lives of millions of people hanging in the balance over the next few months. 

How badly people in South Sudan need the message of hope Ireland’s tricolour signifies. 

Ireland is a small country but our flag is known around the world as a symbol of peace, hope and compassion. 

Trócaire works with the poorest communities in the poorest countries on Earth. Many of these people would never have heard of Ireland were it not for the support being given to them. 

They do not know much about Ireland, but what they do know is that Irish people are filled with compassion and generosity. 

When we look at our flag today, we should take enormous pride from that fact. 

This article was originally published in The Peoples' Flag supplement published in The Irish Indepenent on March 16th, 2017, in association with The Thomas F. Meagher Foundation. Read more about the Ceann Comhairle Project for Africa.

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March 16, 2017

Climate Plan ignores plight of poorest and most vulnerable

As drought pushes millions of people to the brink of famine in East Africa, Ireland yesterday published its Draft National Mitigation Plan on Climate Change. 

The plan is Ireland’s first in ten years on how it intends to reduce the harmful emissions that contribute to climate change.

Unfortunately, Trócaire is disappointed by the lack of new ambition in the plan. 

This is the first climate plan following the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement, which stated very clearly the need for a significant increase in action and ambition on climate change in all countries – we don’t see that increase in ambition in this Plan.  

The draft Plan gives no acknowledgement, reflection or engagement with the level of ambition that Ireland committed to when it ratified the Paris Agreement in late 2016.

Current levels of climate change are already having devastating impacts on the communities that Trócaire works with.  From storms and flooding in Central America to drought and hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa, climate change is destroying lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable people who have done least to cause the problem.

Kitui, Kenya, 2010

The reality of climate change: This photograph was taken in 2010 in Kitui, Kenya. It shows people who have walked for miles to the dried up river Enziu, where they must dig for water. This desperate situation is now the norm across areas of Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and other East African countries where climate change had a profound impact on rainfall patterns, leading to protracted, life-threatening periods of drought. Up to 70 million people in the region are facing extreme food insecurity.

The Plan fails drastically in acknowledging the economic, human and environmental costs of failing to take action. This is despite the fact that Ireland has the 8th highest emissions per person among OECD countries, with emissions increasing by 3.7% in 2015.  

Ireland is only one of two countries in the European Union which will miss its 2020 emission reduction targets. Absence of a concrete plan now will only further the challenge of complying with Ireland’s 2030 targets and long-term 2050 national objective of reducing CO2 emissions by 80%.

That there will be a public consultation on the plan is to be welcomed, and it is also positive to see that climate change will feature in the Citizens’ Assembly later this year. 

We need a real and honest conversation about the urgency of the climate crisis and how we respond as a country.  We are already seeing gains in poverty reduction being significantly eroded by climate change. If we fail to act adequately over the next five years, it may be impossible to deliver on the commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement. The implications for all countries would be devastating, but the poorest and most vulnerable will pay the highest price.