A humanitarian aid plan adopted by the Commission would enable the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), through partner organisations working in the field, to provide assistance throughout 2003. ECHO comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson, a Commission statement said.
"The three countries of coastal West Africa covered by this decision have experienced a succession of wars and civil strive over the last 13 years," the Commission said.
In Sierra Leone, the EC said, recent developments had been positive, however substantial amounts of humanitarian and rehabilitation aid would still be necessary in 2003. "ECHO funding would support the re-integration of at least 220,000 people that are returning home after refuge in Guinea or in other parts of Sierra Leone. ECHO would also target about 60,000 Liberian refugees and vulnerable people living in newly accessible areas."
In Guinea, the long-term host of large numbers of refugees fleeing strife in the region, an additional influx of Liberians (in addition to the 50,000 already in Guinea) cannot be ruled out, the Commission said. ECHO would support the logistical aspects of repatriating refugees to Sierra Leone through the first half of 2003, as well as health and non-food items.
"Refugees from Liberia would continue to need a humanitarian package consisting of health, water/sanitation, shelter, non-food items and protection. However the conflict in Liberia develops over the next 12 months, vulnerable and internally displaced people will remain dependent on humanitarian aid. ECHO will provide this as needs arise and access allows. ECHO funds will be used primarily for health care, water and sanitation, non-food items and protection," the Commission said.
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