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Commission allocates EUR 22.5 million for humanitarian aid operations

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The European Commission has adopted four decisions totalling €22.5 million for humanitarian programmes in Tajikistan (€8 million), Central Africa and the Horn of Africa (ECHO Flight: €9 million) and Sri Lanka (€5.5 million). These funds are managed by the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson. They will help pay for better access to healthcare and nutrition programmes, improvements to food and water supplies and sanitation systems, humanitarian transport services and support for refugees and displaced people. Programmes will be implemented through international organisations and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in the target regions.
Tajikistan: €8 million for food, water and health services

Years of economic decline, civil war (1992-1997) and drought (1999-2001) have made their mark on a country that is currently considered the third poorest in the world outside of Africa. 83% of the population still live below the poverty line, food shortages are widespread and more than 35% of children under five are suffering from chronic malnutrition. Furthermore, access to clean drinking water (43% of the population are without access) and basic health care remains elusive for much of the population, leading to a high incidence of water-borne diseases and malaria.

In response to this situation humanitarian aid activities will focus on:

Meeting basic food needs and enhancing food security - Food aid targeting the most vulnerable groups will be distributed to approximately 65 000 people, including 20 000 malnourished children. 3 200 rural households will benefit from food security projects;

Increasing access to clean water and sanitation - Access to water and sanitation facilities will be improved for over 250 000 people through the rehabilitation of 13 pumping stations and the installation of 140 deep hand pumps.

Enhancing access to primary health care to ensure an effective response to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Activities will include (i) provision of essential medicines and medical supplies to health stations; (ii) training of staff; and (iii) preventative actions including the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Activities will cover the entire country with an emphasis on the Khatlon region which is the hardest hit by poverty.

The European Commission has allocated over €155 million for humanitarian operations in Tajikistan since 1992. Over the coming three years the Commission will gradually be phasing out its humanitarian aid as its development programmes are being reinforced and other donors are increasingly engaging themselves in the country.

Particular attention will be given to linking relief, rehabilitation and development.

Sri Lanka: €5.5 million for returnees, internally displaced people and refugees

An estimated 800,000 people have been internally displaced as a result of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka from 1983 2002. An additional 100,000 fled to India where an estimated 62,000 of them are today living in refugee camps in the province of Tamil Nadu. Since the February 2002 ceasefire was brokered more than 345,000 internally displaced persons living in the north and north-east of Sri Lanka have returned home. An estimated 93,000 displaced people are living in welfare centres scattered around the conflict affected areas.

In response to this situation activities under the current decision will: (i) help approximately 250 000 new returnees to rebuild their livelihoods; (ii) improve the living conditions of 27 000 IDP's who remain in welfare centre's; and (iii) improve access to health care and nutrition for the 60 000 refugees living in camps in Tamil Nadu, mainly women and children.

ECHO is also currently funding a €2 million mine action programme in Northern Sri Lanka. ECHO aid to the populations living in the conflict-affected areas of Sri Lanka and to the Sri Lankan refugees living in Tamil Nadu since the ceasefire agreement has now topped €22.45 million.

ECHO Flight: €9 million for humanitarian transport in Africa

The ECHO Flight humanitarian transport service offers a vital lifeline for vulnerable people in the Horn of Africa, Eastern Africa and Central Africa, by providing access to places which are difficult or impossible to reach by land. ECHO Flight assists humanitarian and development agencies with the transport of personnel and supplies to remote locations. ECHO Flight regularly delivers aid to people in need, despite being confronted with technical constraints and volatile security situations. The security situation is especially problematic in Somalia.

At present ECHO Flight transports some 18,000 passengers per year serving approximately 185 humanitarian and development projects with an overall value of €200 million. From its base in Nairobi ECHO Flight has clocked up over 50,000 missions and transported more than 200,000 aid workers and 6000 tonnes of food and medical supplies since its launch in May 1994. The service has played a crucial role in providing safe, reliable, efficient and cost-effective air transport to agencies operating relief and development programmes in Somalia, north-eastern Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). ECHO has provided funding worth €34 million for the continuation of the service since 2000. This decision will enable ECHO Flight to continue its operations in 2004, and allows for additional or changed destinations if needs arise.