2014 was a year that saw people in Ireland deliver emergency aid to people caught in conflict, vital healthcare to those at risk of a deadly virus, and ongoing support to people living in the poorest regions of the world.
As January began, the clean-up operation from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was underway. Over 6,000 people died and more than four million were left homeless by the force of the storm.
People in Ireland responded to our request for extra support to respond. Our emergency appeal has helped us reach 300,000 in the Philippines with aid.
Our Lenten campaign this year focused on efforts to combat drought in Malawi by providing safe, clean drinking water to communities.
We told you the story of Enestina, a young girl living in a rural area of Malawi that suffers from almost constant drought. Enestina’s story
of how she spends much of her day travelling to a local river to collect water struck a chord with people in Ireland.
Enestina (9), at school in Malawi, 2014. Photo: Jeannie O’Brien
Thanks to the generosity of people during the Lenten period, we will be able to provide safe water to Enestina and many communities like hers.
We paused during Lent to remember the victims of the Rwandan genocide
, the twentieth anniversary of which fell in February. The Rwandan genocide was one of the darkest chapters in recent human history. Up to one million people were killed over 100 days in 1994 as the country imploded.
The horrors of the genocide are well known, but to mark the anniversary we brought you the stories of reconciliation to show how Rwanda has moved on. Seeing how people once torn apart can forgive and seek forgiveness is truly inspiring. Trócaire is proud to have played a role in this process through our support of reconciliation programmes.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Photo: Elena Hermosa
The rebirth of Rwanda after such horrors provides hope that current conflicts will one day be put aside and today’s enemies can be tomorrow’s partners. The Israeli and Palestinian people have suffered enormously as a result of the inability of political leaders to build a peaceful future.
In June we brought our partners, Breaking The Silence
, a group of former Israeli soldiers who now campaign for peace, to Ireland. Their photo exhibition, which attracted thousands of visitors in Dublin’s Temple Bar, was a powerful insight into how military occupation dehumanises both the occupied and the occupier.
The importance of Breaking The Silence’s call for a just peace based on mutual dignity and respect was emphasised just weeks later when conflict broke out once more between Gaza and Israel. Over 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed in what was the third outbreak of serious violence in just six years.
Breaking the Silence photo exhibition at the Gallery of Photography, Dublin in June 2014. Photo: Alan Whelan
Trócaire supported the supply of emergency aid in Gaza and also campaigned for an end to the violence. We held a vigil in Dublin city centre to call for an immediate end to the violence and also a fundamental reshaping of relations between Israel and the Palestinian people.
The cyclical conflict is being driven by underlying issues, including the blockade on Gaza, the military occupation of much of the West Bank and the continued growth in illegal Israeli settlements. Until these issues are tackled, the violence will sadly continue.
Gaza and Israel are not the only regions of the Middle East to experience conflict. The war in Syria rages on, with almost 10 million people now displaced. The shocking reality of life in Syria was brought home to us by a visit to Ireland from Bishop Audo, Bishop of Aleppo.
Bishop Audo visited Ireland for one week and met with political and religious leaders, as well as speaking at some public events. The Bishop spoke about the impact of this war on the ordinary people of Syria and the urgent need for political action to bring it to a close and to secure a lasting peace.
Urgent political action was also being called for in September when world leaders gathered in New York at the UN Climate Conference. Trócaire launched a new report – ‘Feeling The Heat
’ – to coincide with the summit and to press home the damage climate change is having on the communities we work with.
Such is the devastation being caused by climate change in the developing world, Trócaire has committed to making this issue our main focus. Every day we speak with partners overseas about the fall-out of climate change – be it through floods, droughts, hunger or storms.
In solidarity with communities in the developing world, we are calling on Ireland and other developed nations to urgently reduce carbon emissions before the impacts of climate change worsen further.
In October the world’s attention shifted to West Africa and the Ebola outbreak. I visited Sierra Leone to help our team there build a response to the outbreak. I was struck by the bravery of our partner organisations, who tirelessly worked in affected communities to attempt to limit the spread of the virus and offer support to people affected.
Éamonn Meehan in Sierra Leone with Caritas Partners
The anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan was marked in November, although a bigger concern was the potential impact of Typhoon Hagupit, which threatened to strike the Philippines with the ferocity of its predecessor.
Trócaire was ready to launch a major emergency response but, thankfully, the impact of the typhoon was less than expected and damage was minor. It was, however, another reminder of how vulnerable people in the Philippines, and throughout the developing world, are to extreme weather.
Helping to protect communities from the impacts of disaster was one of our Trócaire Gifts this Christmas
. Supporters all over Ireland are getting behind our Christmas campaign, which will help us to continue our work well into 2015 and beyond – making a difference and supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
On behalf of the partners and communities we work with, I would like to thank all those who support our work – particularly our committed givers – for your continued support, and wish you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.