Brussels, 31 January 2003 - The Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Commission (ECHO) is ending its activities in the FYR of Macedonia after almost ten years of activity. Between 1993 and 2003, ECHO allocated more than €110 million in humanitarian aid spent in sectors such as health, water and sanitation and rehabilitation. "ECHO has assisted the victims of various conflicts affecting FYROM over the past decade, always responding flexibly to developments in the humanitarian situation", declared Poul Nielson, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. "Thankfully, the emergency is now over and the people can look ahead to a brighter future". The Commission is continuing to provide longer-term assistance to the FYR of Macedonia through other available instruments and services.
ECHO's first mission in FYROM took place between February 1993 and August 1996. Over €45 million of assistance was allocated to alleviate the humanitarian consequences of the war in the region. Actions ranged from assistance to Bosnian refugees and support to the local vulnerable population to the provision of fuel to public institutions.
ECHO returned to the country in 1999 to provide assistance to over 300,000 refugees who fled from neighbouring Kosovo. Help was also given to the local population to cope with this influx and with the consequences after the return of most of the refugees.
ECHO's overall exit strategy, initiated in June 2000, was postponed with the onset of the conflict that broke out in the Northern and Western parts of the country in February 2001. ECHO immediately responded to the crisis by mobilising additional funds to cover the urgent needs of the displaced population. Actions consisted of food assistance to IDPs and returnees, hygiene parcels for the host families, emergency reconstruction of schools and health centres and distribution of agricultural inputs, seeds and firewood.
Throughout 2002, ECHO continued assisting the remaining caseload of refugees and IDPs while helping return to the areas most affected by the crisis. In view of the substantial number of IDPs still in temporary accommodation, ECHO's food assistance programme has been extended to spring 2003 when the IDP situation is expected to be resolved on completion of the housing reconstruction programme.
ECHO's support from 1999 until today amounts to €64 million. In total, after almost 10 years in the country, ECHO has implemented 105 projects with a value exceeding €110 million.