Brussels, 20 July 2005 - The European Commission will provide the aid through its Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel. The decisions allocate €400 000 for the victims of the drought in Haiti and €500 000 to strengthen the Red Cross' capacity in the Caribbean. The aid will be implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Haiti and by the Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) of the International Red Cross Federation in the Caribbean.
"The European Commission has been active in the region for many years. It has granted €13.9 million in humanitarian aid following the socio-economic crisis and the natural disasters which hit Haiti in 2004 and again this year. The rest of the Caribbean has been allocated almost €9 million since 2004, used exclusively to respond to natural disasters. Putting European solidarity into action remains crucial for these very vulnerable countries", said Mr Michel.
From November 2004 to April 2005, southern Haiti was hit by a drought which seriously affected end-of-year harvests and further increased the vulnerability of rural households which depend solely on agriculture for survival. The acute vulnerability of Haiti's population, due to the socio-economic crisis in the country, has been further heightened by these successive agricultural losses. The summer harvest is the biggest of the year, and after two lost harvests and the damage caused by Hurricane Dennis last week, emergency support is needed.
The aim of the six-month decision is to provide support in the form of seeds and equipment to farmers in southern Haiti hit by the drought and by the aftermath of Hurricane Dennis and who are in a state of chronic food insecurity, to enable them to resume agricultural activities for the 2005 summer cropping season.
The hurricane season was particularly severe in 2004 and clearly demonstrated the Caribbean's extreme vulnerability to these natural disasters. Nearly 5 000 people lost their lives in the region in 2004.
The Red Cross Federation, which is active in all the countries in the region, conducted operations on nearly all fronts and the lessons learnt have underlined the need to strengthen the National Red Cross Societies' ability to respond to such events.
The main aim is to reduce the impact of the disasters on the most vulnerable sections of the population by strengthening coordinated regional responses over a twelve-month period. The Commission's assistance will focus on training, technical support and equipment in order to better respond to natural disasters.
Further information on humanitarian aid programmes in Haiti can be found at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/echo/field/haiti/index_en.htm
Further information on the natural disaster prevention programme can be found at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/echo/field/dipecho/index_en.htm