Since the end of the 80’s, multiple conflicts have plagued West Africa and triggered massive humanitarian crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. The region as a whole has been the theatre of vast displacements of refugees which have further weakened host countries, already handicapped by low levels of development.
Nonetheless, the recent improvement of the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast has allowed the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission to progressively terminate its operations in both these countries. The transition process between emergency and development aid is being handled by the European Commission services dedicated to long term development programmes.
The region still remains prone to shocks such as epidemics, droughts and floods. These crises are regularly assessed by the Humanitarian service of the Commission and funding is provided based on the needs and the magnitude of the emergency.
Since 2002, in response to the humanitarian needs that are recurrently affecting coastal West Africa, the Humanitarian Aid department of the Commission has adopted financial decisions for a total of €135 million. €25 million of this funding has gone directly to the populations affected by the crisis in Ivory Coast, and €96 million was provided to counter the negative effects of the crisis in Liberia. Of the remaining funds, €6 million was used to fight the spread of epidemics at a regional level and €2 million went to providing aid for communities affected by flooding.
A large part of this aid has been dedicated to the support of refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone harboured in Guinea. Today, their return is being facilitated with the funding of regional repatriation projects.
The humanitarian projects funded in these countries have brought integrated and targeted assistance in the following sectors: health care, nutrition, food security, provision of water and sanitation equipment, shelters, first necessity goods, protection and the overall coordination of the humanitarian aid. The Commission has also funded regional initiatives to protect particularly vulnerable children and to ensure the running of a regional flight service for aid workers.
At the regional level, the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission is strongly involved in the fight against epidemics. In 2008, the allocation of €1 million has continued a financial commitment in place since 2004. The support provided has enabled partner humanitarian organisations to react promptly, as soon as the first signs of cholera, meningitis, yellow fever, hepatitis, and measles occurred. These diseases threaten around 200 million people each year. Cases of meningitis, yellow fever and cholera still weigh heavily on local health systems. With this funding, the medical personnel are able to monitor and assess the intensity of the epidemic, treat the sick, and immunize the population.
Since 2004, €6 million have been allocated to the vaccination of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in West Africa.
The European Commission Humanitarian Aid department also contributes to efforts to prevent certain transmittable diseases, with immunization and sensitisation campaigns, and through activities aimed at improving the quality of water and sanitation services.