Brussels, 14 February 2003 - The European Commission has adopted a €15 million aid package to help meet humanitarian needs in Burundi. This decision will enable ECHO, through partner organisations working in the field, to provide assistance to the most vulnerable population groups over the next year. The funds will be channelled by the Humanitarian Aid Office ECHO which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson. The main priority objectives of this decision are health/nutrition, food security and water/sanitation/non-food items. According to Mr Nielson: "Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and ECHO's intervention there is fully in line with the European Commission's strategy of prioritising support for victims of humanitarian crises. An estimated 2 million people will benefit directly or indirectly from this decision." Over the past 4 years ECHO has allocated over €61 million to Burundi, making it one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid to the country.
A series of civil conflicts in Burundi since 1993 have resulted in large population displacements and created serious humanitarian needs. Some areas of the country are still highly volatile, while others are relatively stable and suitable for rehabilitation and development activities.
ECHO aid for Burundi will be targeted at the most vulnerable groups of people, primarily displaced persons and their host communities, refugees, returnees, and women and children. The humanitarian situation in Burundi could deteriorate at any time. To ensure the most rapid and effective response, an emergency response capacity will be set up to monitor such emergencies as temporary population movements, epidemics and nutritional crises. In addition to the 530,000 Burundians seeking refuge in Tanzania, Burundi has been hosting several thousand Congolese refugees since September 2002.
The possibility of a mass repatriation from Tanzania will be closely monitored so that additional resources can be mobilised if need be.
- ECHO plans to support health and nutrition projects. In the health sector, most aid, such as the supply of medicines and equipment, will be channelled through the existing health service. ECHO will continue to fund existing feeding centres for the treatment of malnutrition in case of nutrition crisis, and will launch the integration of nutritional programmes into national health structures.
- ECHO will pay particular attention to Burundi's food security situation in 2003. Bad weather and the looting of family food stocks in several provinces are expected to lead to food shortages, and a warning has been issued about the likelihood of a fresh crisis. The main response will be to support efforts by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation to distribute seed, hoes and seed protection rations to vulnerable households.
- The final priority objective of this humanitarian plan is to improve the hygiene, accessibility and availability of drinking water for displaced persons, in order to prevent water-borne and hygiene-related illnesses. The target population will also be provided with essential goods (blankets, jerry cans, clothing, etc.) and school materials for their children.