Ferrero-Waldner announces € 200,000 in Austrian humanitarian aid for Sudan
Vienna, 7 June 2004 - "In the Darfur region of western Sudan we are today facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Around one million Sudanese have fled since the fighting broke out in February 2003, and the majority of the refugees are women and children. I have therefore arranged for Austria to make available Euro 200,000 in humanitarian aid for these displaced people, making Austria one of the first countries to assist the victims of this humanitarian catastrophe. After all, as we know, fast help is doubly effective", explained Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner today. This Austrian humanitarian aid is to be delivered as quickly as possible via relief organisations active on the spot in order to help the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees in the border area of neighbouring Chad as well as the internal refugees and internally displaced people dispersed over wide areas of the Darfur region.
Austria officially announced its contribution of Euro 200,000 in humanitarian assistance at a United Nations Darfur donors' conference held in Geneva on 3 June. In addition, Austria is also contributing, of course, its proportionate share of approx. 2.5% to the European Union's humanitarian relief programme for this region: the EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson has made available Euro 10 million for the swift and efficient relief of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, as well as a further Euro 4 million for the refugees in Chad. This aid package will add to the Euro 9.2 million in emergency humanitarian assistance that the European Commission has already allocated to the victims of the Darfur crisis.
At the EU Council of Foreign Ministers Ferrero-Waldner had already successfully advocated a strong EU response to the situation in Sudan, expressing grave concerns about the developments in Darfur. The Foreign Minister had also placed the Sudan crisis on the agenda at the latest meeting of the Council for Matters of Austrian Integration and Foreign Policy, as she explained: "in my view, adherence to the ceasefire agreement, disarmament of the militias and humanitarian access to the affected populations in Darfur are the most urgent problems at the moment."
At the same time, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said she welcomed the emerging signs of progress towards a pacification of the region. Although the signing of an agreement in Addis Ababa just a few days ago, which had come about with strong support from the European Union and the African Union, did not yet mean that the Darfur problem had been resolved, it should at last allow the humanitarian aid organisations the opportunity to deliver humanitarian assistance and subsequently give the displaced people the chance of returning to their villages. The Austrian aid package would represent an important contribution to this process, concluded the Foreign Minister.