With the humanitarian situation drastically deteriorating in a number of countries and regions, the EU is releasing urgent assistance. A total of €28.7 million have been allocated to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs in Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Egypt and Libya.
"Humanitarian needs worldwide reached record levels last year. We are mobilising the last reserves of the Commission's 2016 budget to help cover the most urgent needs, in particular in countries where the humanitarian response is underfunded. We will continue to support the most vulnerable people worldwide with EU aid in 2017," said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
The biggest share of the package, €10 million, will go to humanitarian assistance in Somalia, for which the United Nations launched an urgent appeal last month. The country is currently facing a severe and worsening drought that has left additional hundreds of thousands of people short of food and water, while five million Somalis – more than 40 per cent of the population – already lack access to sufficient food.
€8 million of the package will address the needs of the increasing numbers of displaced people and recent returnees in Afghanistan, who have been particularly hard hit by the sub-zero winter – as well as vulnerable Afghan refugees in Iran.
Humanitarian assistance of €3.9 million will be channelled to populations affected by conflict in Myanmar. At least 30 000 people have been newly displaced by recent violence, and some 22 000 have fled across the border into Bangladesh. An estimated 14 000 people have crossed into China and a further 3 500 are displaced within the Northern Shan State. All need urgent humanitarian assistance.
Egypt, where the influx of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from Syria, Iraq and sub-Saharan Africa continues, will receive €3.8 million humanitarian aid channelled through EU humanitarian partner organisations. As of 31 October 2016, UNHCR reported over 190 000 registered asylum seekers and refugees in Egypt.
In Libya, where the humanitarian situation remains very fragile, the Commission will allocate €3 million of the package for relief assistance to vulnerable people. Governance challenges, the economic crisis, insecurity and violence have caused displacement, unsafe living conditions and a lack of access to essential goods and services. Some 1.3 million people – 19 per cent of the population - require humanitarian assistance.
EU humanitarian aid is delivered in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. It covers intervention areas such as food and nutrition, water and sanitation, shelter, health care and education in emergencies, and is channelled through partner organisations - UN agencies, international organisations and NGOs.
The European Commission has been providing humanitarian aid since 1992 in over 110 countries. While its annual budget for such operations is only around €1 billion, the Commission's assistance reaches over 120 million people every year.