Brussels, 28 July 2004 -The European Commission is launching two emergency humanitarian aid decisions in response to growing needs in flood-hit south Asia and Tajikistan. The funds are being channelled through the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson. €4 million has been earmarked for a range of activities in Bangladesh and the northern Indian states of Assam and Bihar including the provision of food, medicines, oral rehydration salts and essential household items for flood victims. 800,000 highly vulnerable people in rural areas will be assisted. €350,000 is being deployed around the Tajikistan capital, Dushanbe, where torrential rains have left a trail of destruction. The focus here is on water, sanitation and health actions benefiting around 600,000 people.
This year's monsoon is much heavier and struck earlier than usual. The resulting floods have claimed around 400 lives and affected more than 34 million people. Many people have been forced to abandon their homes and take refuge in elevated areas such as embankments and public buildings. Food stocks have been swept away, and enormous losses of both livestock and crops have been reported. In addition, water and sanitation systems have been damaged leading to shortages of clean drinking water and an increased threat of disease.
On Monday, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC) issued an appeal to the international community for more than €2.8 million for its programmes to support flood victims in Bangladesh. Today's announcement makes a significant contribution to this appeal, with €1.35 million for IFRC activities. The remaining funds are for projects by other ECHO implementing partners.
ECHO support is already going to victims of the floods through a €5.7 million decision taken last year for disaster-preparedness measures under the DIPECHO programme
In Bangladesh, staff of the IFRC, who have received training financed by this programme, are working to alleviate the suffering of victims. Meanwhile, ECHO-funded temporary shelters and emergency food stocks have been deployed by the NGO, Terre des Hommes (Italy) to assist 10,000 highly vulnerable people.
In Tajikistan, torrential rains in mid-July have resulted in rivers bursting their banks and numerous landslides. The Varzob valley has suffered enormous damage to infrastructure and the floodwaters have polluted Dushanbe's water supply. Almost 60% of the city's population have no regular access to drinking water resulting in a serious threat of disease. The new emergency funds are on top of existing ECHO-funded programmes worth €10.5 million in Tajikistan - where humanitarian needs are rarely publicised in the international media.
For more information on ECHO activities: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/echo/index_en.htm
For pictures of flood damage in Assam and Tajikistan, see: http://europa.eu.int/comm/echo/information/media/india/index_en.htm