Our history

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Our history

For more than 45 years, Concern Worldwide has been dedicated to reducing suffering and fighting hunger and poverty. Today, Concern’s work is needed more than ever.

John and Kay O'Loughlin with President Mary McAleese on the 40th anniversary of Concern's foundation.

Concern was founded in the Republic of Ireland by John and Kay O’Loughlin-Kennedy (pictured right at our 2008 40th anniversary celebrations with then-President of Ireland Mary McAleese) in 1968, as a response to the famine in the Nigerian province of Biafra. The famine was largely precipitated by the conflict that followed Biafra’s attempt to secede from Nigeria.

John’s brother, Father Raymond Kennedy, a Holy Ghost Priest, had returned to Ireland from Nigeria with news about the plight of people in Biafra where widespread famine was becoming a reality due to the Nigerian blockade of food, medicines, fuel and basic necessities.

John, Kay and Raymond held a press conference in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin to raise awareness and funds. This allowed them send the first ‘mercy flight’ to Biafra.

But much more was needed. Some weeks later a larger meeting was called in the home of John and Kay, Africa Concern was formed and the fundraising continued.

Send One Ship

Africa Concern with the Knights of Columbanus launched an appeal in June 1968 for the famine in Biafra with the slogan 'Send One Ship'.

Becoming Concern

On 29 September, a 600 tonne ship named the Columcille arrived at Sao Tome, a Portuguese island off the coast of Biafra, filled with vital supplies of powdered food, medicines, and batteries. In 1970, a huge cyclone hit East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the public were asked to respond. Africa Concern simply became Concern.

Continued work

Since our foundation, Concern has gone on to work in over 50 countries, working with the most vulnerable people to tackle hunger and transform lives.

Today, with more than 2,700 staff of 31 nationalities, Concern operates in 26 of the world’s poorest countries. We undertake long-term development programmes focusing on livelihoods, health and nutrition, and education.


Responding to emergencies

Responding to emergencies continues to be an equally important part of our work. Concern works with some of the most vulnerable communities in the world in areas prone to natural disasters or conflict. When emergencies hit, we are there to save lives. Then we stay, helping people rebuild and protect themselves from future disasters.   
Concern’s work is funded by members of the public, governments and other donors.

Looking forward

Concern’s work is needed now more than ever as hunger and poverty continue to devastate lives in the developing world. We are determined to work with the hardest to reach communities, developing innovative and effective programmes that bring about positive change in people’s lives.    
We also advocate and campaign both nationally and internationally to bring about change on a global scale.  

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