Burundi + 9 more

Africa's silent tsunamis: Commission adopts humanitarian aid decisions worth €165.7 million

Brussels, 26 December 2005 - The European Commission has approved a series of humanitarian aid decisions for Africa worth €165.7 million. The bulk of the resources are allocated in 'Global Plans' for large-scale aid operations in 2006 in countries experiencing ongoing crises. Assistance is being provided for vulnerable people in ten countries: Burundi (€17 million), Chad (€13.5 million), Comoros (€600,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (€38 million), Côte d'Ivoire (€5.2 million), Liberia (€16.4 million), Madagascar (€500,000), Sudan (€48 million), Tanzania (€11.5 million) and Uganda (€15 million). The funds are managed by the Humanitarian Aid department of the Commission under the responsibility of Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. Projects will be implemented by relief agencies operating in the target regions.

"Today we remember the victims of the tsunami in South East Asia. But millions of vulnerable people in Africa are exposed to natural disasters like droughts, floods and insect infestations as well as armed conflicts," said Louis Michel. "These are silent tsunamis. Many of these catastrophes do not hit the headlines in the western media but they still lead to great suffering. The Commission is continuing to address these crises and these latest decisions turn our commitment into a multitude of concrete actions."

Mr Michel added: "Thanks to effective forward planning, we are again starting the year with around a third of the humanitarian budget for 2006 committed to help the often invisible victims of longer term crisis. This means we can get the help to where it is needed without delay."

Burundi - €17 million

The peace process and the political transition in Burundi have seen progress over the last year. However, living conditions for the population remain difficult after a decade of war and displacement. Access to healthcare is restricted and the quality of available health services reduced. 117,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) remain in 160 sites dotted around the countryside. Nearly 200,000 Burundian refugees are still being assisted in Tanzania. The Commission's humanitarian global plan for 2006 involves continuing support for immediate life-saving actions and community-based interventions targeting the most affected groups, as well as reintegration assistance for people returning from forced displacement. The main focal areas are healthcare, nutrition and sanitation.

Chad - €13.5 million

The Commission's aid efforts in Chad continue to cover all the traditional humanitarian assistance sectors: health, food aid, food security, shelter, water/sanitation, distribution of non-food items and protection. Beneficiaries of the Commission's €13.5 million global humanitarian aid plan for 2006 are some 215,000 refugees from the Sudanese province of Darfur who crossed the border into Eastern Chad between April 2003 and mid-2004, as well as vulnerable groups among the local host communities.

Comoros - €600,000

On 24 November, the Karthala volcano on the island of Grande Comore erupted for the second time in 2005. The eruption projected ash, smoke and volcanic debris over extensive areas of the Comoros' main island depriving an estimated 175,000 people of proper access to safe drinking water. This emergency humanitarian aid decision aims to help restore this access. It includes the cleaning and rehabilitation of village water tanks polluted by ash and debris.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - €38 million

Congo's population continues to suffer considerable hardship despite significant political progress. Mortality rates remain high particularly for children under five. Other health indicators are amongst the worst in the world, to which one must add the growing problem of sexual violence against women. Commission humanitarian programmes in 2006 will thus continue to concentrate on health, with an emphasis on children and women. Resources are also being devoted to the major challenge of helping displaced people and refugees. The Commission programme is part of a common humanitarian strategy coordinated among the United Nations and other donors. The DRC also continues to offer an illustration of the Commission's policy of Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) as humanitarian aid programmes are passed on to national authorities with longer-term funding from development donors such as the European Development Fund (EDF).

Côte d'Ivoire - €5.2 million

Côte d'Ivoire remains split and the humanitarian situation is very fragile. Commission humanitarian assistance targets around half a million internally displaced people and their host communities in the west of the country. The objectives are to improve access to water, maintain ongoing medical support, to set up a health alert monitoring system (to give timely warnings about possible epidemics), and to protect the most vulnerable, in particular children without families and women.

Liberia - €16.4 million

Although Liberia is in a post-crisis phase, with many hopeful signs for the future after 14 years of conflict, the country still faces major challenges. To maximise the impact of humanitarian aid in the transition to development, the Commission has drawn up priorities for 2006 based on an assessment of the population's basic needs. The latest €16.4 million humanitarian global plan aims to continue restoring access to basic services such as water, health and sanitation, as well as to provide shelter, food security and protection for the most vulnerable people. Women and children are particular target groups. The decision also includes assistance for the return and reinstallation of most of the 191,000 refugees still living in camps outside Liberia and of 80,000 internally displaced persons, who are expected to return home in 2006.

Madagascar - €500,000

The situation for around 150,000 people in the Vangaindrano District of southern Madagascar has gone from bad to worse following repeated floods, insect infestations and drought. The Commission is therefore providing life-saving aid for nutrition, emergency water and sanitation facilities, emergency agricultural inputs (seeds and tools) and logistical support.

Sudan - €48 million

Sudan is one of the countries worst-affected by poverty, natural and man-made disasters and conflict. The fighting in Darfur has led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The main objective of the Commission's €40 million humanitarian global plan for 2006 is to save lives and stabilise the living conditions of people and communities. It also aims to improve the humanitarian and operational environment through country-wide actions promoting respect for international humanitarian law and principles. Sudan hosts the largest population of internally displaced people in the world: The Darfur conflict displaced almost two million people on top of the four million resulting from the North-South conflict (up to 800,000 Sudanese have also sought refuge in Chad and other neighbouring countries).

The United Nations anticipates that more than half a million IDPs will have returned to their places of origin by mid-2006. The Commission has therefore also decided to provide €8 million (in a separate decision) to assist the return process in Sudan, bearing in mind that local institutions and communities are far from ready to absorb the expected massive influx of returnees. This vital support will address the most pressing needs emerging from population movements throughout the country and will cover the areas of current displacement, transit and origin.

Tanzania-- €11.5 million

The Commission continues to provide humanitarian aid to around 350,000 refugees in Tanzania, mainly of Burundian and Congolese origin. These refugees depend almost entirely on humanitarian aid for their survival. This is the largest refugee caseload in Africa. The objective of the Commission's global humanitarian aid plan for 2006 is to continue meeting their essential needs and to support facilitated repatriation.

Uganda - €15 million

The main objective of the 2006 humanitarian global plan for Uganda is to relieve the suffering of vulnerable people in northern and central parts of the country affected by insecurity and climatic hazards. It covers 1.4 million civilians displaced in camps, their host communities as well as refugees in Uganda. Through its humanitarian aid, the Commission will also continue to provide shelter and relief items to the so-called "night commuters" in the northern region of Acholiland. Around 35,000 children and adults abandon their homes every night for the relative safety of urban areas and larger IDP camps. This is due to the constant threat of abduction (the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda has abducted an estimated 25,000 children in the last twenty years).

Working with partners

The humanitarian aid operations financed by these Commission decisions and global plans will be implemented over the coming months. The funding will be channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department, which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel. The department works with about 180 implementing partners, including specialised United Nations' agencies, the Red Cross movement and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

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