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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Irish aid sparks development

Irish aid sparks development

A recent visit by the Irish deputy Foreign Minister brought electrifying results

when he presided over the reopening of some of the capital's power generators.

Tom Kitt was near the end of a four-day trip to Cambodia, the first official visit

by an Irish minister, when he made the trip out to Phnom Penh's Power Plant No 3,

near the airport.

When repairs got underway, parts were found to be missing and one of the enormous

generator sets had disappeared.

Irish experts stepped in to spark up the system, supported by Irish bilateral aid,

and the generators are now set to boost the capital's overstretched system.

Mr Kitt said that as a small country in the European Community, Ireland "likes

to pick practical ways to help".

The Cambodian Minister for Industry, Mines and Energy, Pou Sothirak, praised Ireland

for being "among the first donor countries to make a major contribution".

Michael Hoey of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said the Cambodian Government

had identified three areas where Irish aid is sought: more technical and financial

help with energy, human resource development and English language teachers.

Mr Kitt, known as the "minister for development" in his home country, said

the Irish people have shown strong evidence of their interest in Cambodia through

involvement with UNTAC and with various NGOs.

He also visited provincial projects run by Irish NGOs Concern and Trocaire.

One which left an impression was the Concern project in Kompong Speu where the minister's

delegation was shocked by the mine injuries and deaths.

Concern field director Breda Gahon was ending a two year assignment in the area and

she emphasized the need for mine clearance as an urgently required preventive health

measure.

And at a school, Mr Kitt met the sad sister of a boy who died recently in a mine

blast.

Moved by what he saw the minister contacted the British demining charity Halo Trust

and made an on-the-spot pledge to give funding for their work in the area.

Concern has seen the building of two health clinics in Kompong Speu.

The new wooden one was built to replace the previous clinic which was destroyed in

a Khmer Rouge rocket-attack last spring.

Nearby, stands the remains of a once solidly-built concrete clinic.

Concern has trained local health workers under a government-approved course which

field director Breda Gahon was instrumental in drawing up and implementing.

A fluent Khmer-speaker, she is legendary in the province for her energy and commitment

to sound health practices. The incompetent and corrupt are said to make themselves

scarce on her approach.

Before she left, Ms Gahon awarded certificates to local health workers at community

and district level. They said she would be sorely missed.

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