Brussels, 26 July 2005 - The European Commission has allocated two new decisions with a total of €20 million in humanitarian aid for victims of the Afghanistan crisis and natural hazard in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. The overarching objective of this funding is to continue assisting the most vulnerable whilst sustaining the return and reintegration process of refugees and internally displaced persons. Funds will be channelled through the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of the Commissioner Louis Michel.
After 23 years of conflict and five years of drought, Afghanistan remains one of the countries with greatest humanitarian needs worldwide. ECHO's Global Needs Assessment places Afghanistan 8th out of 139 countries in need. Maternal mortality is extremely high (at 1600 deaths per 100,000 live births) whilst infant mortality rate is the highest in Asia (165 per 1000). Access to safe water remains a problem (with only 13% of Afghans having access to it).
These indicators are a reminder of the level of humanitarian needs still present in Afghanistan. However, the situation has improved since the fall of the Taliban regime in November 2001. Over 3,5 million refugees and IDPs have returned since spring 2002, in what constitutes a silent success story of the international community's response to the Afghan crisis. A further 700,000 are expected to return in 2005.
From 2001 to 2004, ECHO provided humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan worth € 218 million. This aid has helped sustain the massive return of refugees and IDPs to Afghanistan, provided essential aid to remaining refugees and IDPs, tackled humanitarian needs resulting from the drought, and generally alleviated the sufferings of the victims of the conflict and drought. With these two new decisions, activities funded for vulnerable people affected by the consequences of the Afghan crisis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, will include:
Shelter: construction of shelters for the most vulnerable of the returnees, on a self-help basis (distribution of materials and training of the beneficiaries on the use of anti-seismic construction techniques and materials, which are affordable and embedded in the local culture);
Water and sanitation: the objective of the decision is to increase access to drinking water to the most needy, as well as to improve sanitation facilities.
Protection: Refugees in Iran and in Pakistan are mainly in need of protection, as well as of support for voluntary repatriation. Some of the most vulnerable refugees living in camps in Pakistan, as well as IDPs living in camps in Southern Afghanistan are completely dependent on humanitarian aid for their survival.
Security: security, notably the targeting of aid workers, is a predominant concern in Afghanistan and the main obstacle to efficient delivery of humanitarian assistance. In order to facilitate operations and enable partners to conduct their activities in a security-informed manner, ECHO is funding two sets of services for humanitarian organisations: a flights operation, dedicated to humanitarian and aid missions, and a security office providing information and advice.
Specific actions regarding natural disasters: providing primary relief such as distribution of essential items.
With this funding decision, Commission's humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Afghan crisis (in Afghanistan, and in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan) since 1993 reaches € 358 million.
More information: http://europa.eu.int/comm/echo/field/afghanistan/index_en.htm