The spectre of the famine, lodged in the โ€œsubconscious of the Irish and in memoryโ€, is a reason for Irelandโ€™s determination to alleviate food insecurity, Tรกnaiste Micheรกl Martin has said during a public conversation in Washington.

He was speaking on Tuesday along with USAID administrator Samantha Power, who joined Mr Martin in announcing an expansion of the ongoing co-operation between Ireland and that programme with a joint commitment worth $75 million to advance food security in Zambia.

โ€œWherever famine, hunger or children go hungry in the world we work together to see if we can alleviate that and develop systems that can prevent famine into the future,โ€ said Mr Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

โ€œPresident (Joe) Biden in the Dรกil last year spoke movingly about the relationship between USAID and Irish Aid,โ€ he said. โ€œWe have a wonderful partnership in Malawai. And both of us would agree that conflict and climate drives famine and hunger and malnutrition among children in particular.

โ€œWe see that in Sudan today, 11 million people are displaced. In Ethiopia, in particular Tigray, and in Gaza today, children are starving. The population is on the cusp of starvation because of conflict and a common thread for Ireland in all of those situations is humanitarian access to vital supplies. And the focus of Ireland today is very much on the plight of Gazan people.โ€

The conversation took place in front of an invited audience at a gathering moderated by the Irish Ambassador to the US, Geraldine Byrne Nason, at the ambassadorial residence in Washington.

In welcoming the partnership for Zambia, Ms Power also returned to what she termed โ€œthe roots of the connectionโ€.

โ€œI donโ€™t have a pie chart in mind of Irish Americans, but thereโ€™s the line that came in famine times. And the influx over so many generations that came because of tough economic conditions in Ireland. My people came in that way in 1979,โ€ she said.

โ€œAnd I mention that because I think whatโ€™s inspiring about the trajectory that we are working on is that it is rooted in the fundamental principles you alluded to but also individual dignity and agency.โ€

The development of a five-year mission strategy for Zambia by Ireland corresponds with USAIDโ€™s Feed the Future Zambia programme, designed to put in place a localised food system that will prove resilient to future stresses. The partnership gained traction in Malawi and has helped the development of lands by smallholder farmers there.

The Tรกnaiste said a โ€œtechnical missionโ€ team would travel to Zambia in the coming weeks to finalise the details of the plan. He pledged to increase the aid budget for Zambia to build what he described as โ€œsustainable food systems, prioritising improved nutrition, gender equality and climate actionโ€.

In a wide-ranging discussion, which touched on the devastating consequences of food insecurity across the world, Ms Power conceded that the preponderance of conflicts and increasing climate related issues meant that too often global aid is โ€œskewing towards emergency responseโ€.

โ€œThrough our work together in the agricultural sector we are all about together ensuring that people donโ€™t need assistance in the longer term.โ€

She said that the situation in Gaza is โ€œas dire as any that our agency on the ground has dealt inโ€.

โ€œThe US has invested in diplomacy. Secretary [of state Antony] Blinken is there on the ground today again,โ€ she said. โ€œThe gates of Raffa opened because of high pressure diplomacy. But we very much believe that the only way there will be sufficient provisions for the civilians of Gaza is for commercial access to accompany humanitarian access.โ€

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