Commission adopts 14 new humanitarian aid decisions worth over EUR 30 million

IP/04/31
Brussels, 09 January 2004 - The European Commission has approved a series of humanitarian aid decisions for crises in Asia, Africa and Latin America worth €31.296 million. Assistance is being provided for vulnerable people in Afghanistan (€6.27 million), Angola (€900,000), Refugees from Bhutan in Nepal (€2 million), Victims of Conflict in Nepal (€2 million), Central America (€520, 000), Ecuador (€206,000), Coastal West Africa (€500,000), Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) (€5 million), Republic of Congo (€2 million), Dominican Republic (€900,000), Ethiopia (€2 million), Sahrawi refugees in Algeria (€5 million), Somalia (€2 million) and Sri Lanka (€2 million). The funds are managed by the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson. Projects will be implemented by humanitarian agencies operating in the target regions.

Winter assistance for the people of Afghanistan - €6.27 million

More than 20 years of civil war in Afghanistan has led to massive population displacement, loss of livelihoods, and widespread food shortages. In winter, the vulnerability of the affected populations becomes more acute due to difficult climatic conditions.

The aid will go to those in greatest need, providing them with the means to survive during the harsh winter months, through measures addressing food insecurity and water needs. This funding decision will also contribute to the protection of refugees, IDPs and other groups at risk in Afghanistan, as well as Iran and Pakistan, where there are still over 5 million Afghan refugees. Finally, the funding decision will facilitate access of humanitarian workers and goods, by supporting the provision of humanitarian flight services.

Resettlement support in Angola - €900,000

The April 2002 ceasefire in Angola ended 27 years of civil war and triggered unprecedented population movement as almost four million displaced people began their journey home. These populations are particularly vulnerable and sustained assistance during the resettlement process is vital. ECHO funding will contribute to the establishment of minimum conditions for resettlement, providing essential items, nutritional support, primary health care, protection and legal support, as well as de-mining and educational activities for 200,000 war-affected people mainly in the Uige, Malange and Moxico provinces. This additional ECHO funding comes on top of €21 million already committed in Angola in 2003.

Refugees from Bhutan in Nepal - €2 million

This funding decision is to help meet the basic food needs of 100,000 refugees from Bhutan living in seven camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts of Nepal. The support is being channelled through the World Food Programme. Basic rations, purchased on local markets, are distributed by the World Food Programme via the Nepalese Red Cross. ECHO is also supporting the supply of supplementary food items to 3,400 highly vulnerable people (babies, malnourished under-fives, nursing mothers, victims of tuberculosis and infirm elderly people) as well as the provision of fortified meals, served at school, to 42,000 pupils. Since 2001, ECHO has provided €5.9 million in humanitarian aid for the refugees from Bhutan in Nepal a 'forgotten crisis' largely overlooked by the international community.

Victims of Conflict in Nepal - €2 million

A further €2 million is provided to assist vulnerable populations in Nepal affected by the conflict which started in 1996. To date this crisis has killed over 8,200 people, causing 5,000 deaths in 2002. Since the collapse of the ceasefire in August, between 400 and 500 people have been killed each month. ECHO funds will support the protection of the civilian population, provide primary health care for around 240,000 people, and ensure quality water and sanitation facilities for 900 households and 1,000 children in schools. The health, water and sanitation interventions will be targeted at the vulnerable insurgency affected Mid Western region. The decision will fund legal protection activities which will benefit the entire population of Nepal.

Treatment of Malnutrition in Central America - €520,000

The four poorest countries of the Central American region, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, are facing serious environmental, economic and socio-cultural problems. This instability has contributed to reduced access to food for the poorest sectors of society. Vulnerable populations are now affected by malnutrition, food insecurity, compounded by poor access to drinking water and insufficient healthcare coverage. This latest ECHO decision will provide specialist training to between 4000 and 6000 health workers in order to enable better detection and treatment of malnutrition in the region.

Aid for Columbian refugees in Ecuador (€206,000)

The longstanding conflict in Colombia is increasingly affecting the surrounding countries. In 2003, an average of 1000 Colombians have sought asylum in Ecuador every month, representing a 100% increase compared to 2002. While the government of Equador is committed to helping the refugees, it lacks the necessary resources. This decision will finance the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in its efforts to help reduce the backlog of asylum applications, provide basic assistance to about 1250 asylum seekers in need and cover shelter maintenance costs.

Coastal West Africa: Emergency aid for cholera victims in Mali - €500,000

Cholera has killed at least 76 people in Mali since the latest epidemic broke out in August 2003. To date 1000 cases have been declared but recently the infection rate has increased and the disease has spread. ECHO is funding emergency medical treatment for an estimated 4,000 infected patients. A further 500,000 people, considered to be at high risk, will benefit from awareness raising educational activities.

Emergency nutritional support for children in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) - €5 million

Malnutrition has become a persistent problem in the DPRK. Children are the first victims of food shortages and a recent UNICEF/WFP assessment revealed particularly worrying levels of malnutrition, which could lead to high mortality rates among the under fives. Poor access to water and sanitation, and to healthcare, further compound health problems and place children at even greater risk. With the onset of winter, conditions are likely to deteriorate and it is estimated that 3.5 million children will not receive adequate food rations from January unless new donations are immediately confirmed. This ECHO decision will provide emergency nutritional assistance in order to save and preserve the lives of severely malnourished children in nine provinces.

Victims of armed conflict in the Republic of Congo - €2 million

Armed conflict in the Pool region of the RoC has had severe consequences for the civilian population. Recent improvements in the security situation have increased the access of humanitarian actors to vulnerable populations and uncovered new humanitarian needs. Years of armed conflict have destroyed social and healthcare structures in the region, and severely disrupted agricultural production. Today, the local population faces ongoing food insecurity and the incidence of epidemic disease has increased. Many homes have been looted and families lack essential items. This funding decision will help to improve the living conditions for around 200,000 vulnerable people (that is, an average of €10 per person living in Pool) affected by the conflict, increasing access to healthcare and assisting the resettlement of displaced populations.

Emergency Relief in the Dominican Republic - €900,000

ECHO will provide €700,000 in humanitarian aid for approximately 65,000 people affected by recent floods in the north of the Dominican Republic. In November severe flooding caused widespread destruction and destroyed more than 200,000 hectares of agricultural crops. ECHO funds will support vital emergency relief, water and sanitation, and food aid assistance.

In order to maximise humanitarian assistance in the region, a further €200,000 will finance the ECHO office in Santo Domingo. The Santo Domingo office provides vital technical assistance to ECHO funded projects in the Caribbean and promotes a rapid response to humanitarian crises in the region.

Victims of drought and conflict in Ethiopia - €2 million

The recent severe drought in Ethiopia has led to an intensification of various ethnic conflicts as vulnerable populations often pastoralists struggle for decreasing resources such as access to water supplies and pasture. This decision will fund the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in addressing some of the short term humanitarian needs that arise from and drive these conflicts. It will also fund ICRC protection assistance to the victims of ongoing inter-ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia in accordance with its Geneva Convention mandate. ECHO funding will enable the ICRC to provide legal protection and humanitarian assistance for around 60,000 people detained as a result of conflict, for an estimated 10,000 displaced people, and for 30,000 of the most vulnerable pastoralist communities.

Sahrawi refugees living in the Tindouf region of Algeria - €5.14 million

Sahrawi refugees have been living in refugee camps in the Algerian desert since 1975, when Morocco occupied Western Sahara. Today 155,000 people still live in tents in refugee camps where they are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. This humanitarian aid decision will build on ECHO's earlier work in the region. In 2002, the Commission provided over €14 million in humanitarian aid for Sahrawi refugees. ECHO funding will be used to help meet the most urgent needs of the refugee population. ECHO will continue to support programmes supplying basic foodstuffs, medicines, training, and shelter for the camp population.

Populations affected by conflict and climatic extremes in Somalia - €2 million

Ten years of armed conflict, recurrent droughts and floods, have caused widespread destruction and loss of livelihood for much of the civilian population. The situation is particularly bad in north-east Somalia where insecurity and successive droughts have now utterly exhausted the local populations' capacity to cope. ECHO funding will target this area where up to 100,000 people need rapid emergency assistance.

Mine affected populations in Sri Lanka - €2 million

Since 1983, internal conflict in Sri Lanka has resulted in the displacement of an estimated 730,000 people. These populations are particularly vulnerable to the threats of landmines and unexploded bombs. Between 600,000 and one million mines remain scattered across the conflict area, mainly concentrated in the northern Jaffna and Vanni regions of Sri Lanka. ECHO has been supporting vital de-mining operations and mine-risk education projects in these areas since 2002. These interventions have contributed to a significant reduction in the number of landmine injuries (from approximately 20 to between 4 and 7 incidents per month). This most recent decision will build on these successes and help to open the way for reconstruction and development activities.