Today the European Commission has adopted a €30 million programme to provide 350 000 Syrian children with drinking milk, as part of the already substantial aid provided by the EU to those in need as a consequence of the crisis in the region.
The funding for this latest programme is part of the €500 million support package for European farmers presented by the Commission in 2015, which represented a substantial response by the Commission to support European farmers. It will be used to buy milk which should originate in the EU.
As well as supporting European farmers through the purchase of drinking milk, the €30 million programme will also contribute significantly to the major challenge posed to the EU by the refugee crisis. The milk will be distributed to Syrian children and will reinforce an already operating food distribution programme for school children financed by the EU in Syria.
"This new programme will help hundreds of thousands of Syrian children in need. We must remain committed to helping the most vulnerable victims of the conflict. This additional support will go to humanitarian partner organisations working in the country." said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides.
The conflict in Syria had a severe impact on the agriculture sector of the country, leading to a decline in food production, in particular of dairy products. Consumption of milk has been significantly reduced especially amongst poor households due to high food prices. Syrian families typically consumed milk and other dairy products on a daily basis prior to the crisis. At present, milk has in some cases completely disappeared from their diet.
The EU is the leading donor in the international response to the Syrian crisis, with over €5.5 billion from the EU and Member States collectively in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance. At the 'Supporting Syria and the Region' conference on 4 February in London, the EU and its Member States pledged to provide over €3 billion in 2016 to assist people affected by the fighting in Syria throughout wider region. The milk package is therefore a one-off addition to the already substantial EU-funded humanitarian aid delivered to those in need.