Brussels, 28 January 2003 - The European Commission has adopted a €16 million global plan to help meet humanitarian needs in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. This decision will enable ECHO, through partner organisations working in the field, to provide assistance to the most vulnerable population groups throughout 2003. The funds will be channelled by the Humanitarian Aid Office ECHO which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson.
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. Although recent developments in Sierra Leone have been positive, substantial amounts of humanitarian and rehabilitation aid will still be necessary in 2003. ECHO funding will support the re-integration of an estimated 220,000(1) people that are returning home after refuge in Guinea or in other parts of Sierra Leone. ECHO will also target about 60,000 Liberian refugees, as well as vulnerable people living in newly accessible areas who have lost much of their basic infrastructure due to the fighting.
Guinea is the long-term host of large numbers of refugees fleeing strife in the region. Although most of the 70,000 refugees from Sierra Leone should be repatriated in 2003, an additional influx of Liberians (in addition to the 50,000 already in Guinea) cannot be ruled out. ECHO will 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 will 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.
(1) According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees