The EC announced on Monday that it had approved two humanitarian aid packages, worth €30 million (US $38 million), for vulnerable displaced populations in Burundi and Tanzania.
The funds - €15 million ($19 million) for Burundi and a similar amount for Tanzania - will be managed by the EC's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), and projects will be implemented by humanitarian agencies operating in the targeted regions, the EC reported from its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
ECHO Commissioner Poul Nielson was quoted as saying that the progress made towards peace in 2003 in Burundi and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had opened up the prospect that thousands of refugees who had fled conflict, and were living in camps in Tanzania, could return home.
"The possible return of refugees will need careful organisation to avoid further conflict, and to ensure that people have a safe place to return to and build a new life," Nielson said.
The EC reported that the humanitarian situation in Burundi remained "highly uncertain" and that its humanitarian needs had increased, with the country ranked 171st out of 175 countries in the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index for 2003.
"Years of war and displacement have led to a total absence of basic services for large sectors of the population and have contributed to excessively high mortality and morbidity rates," the EC reported. "To date the conflict has killed an estimated 300,000 people, caused massive population movements, and created over 800,000 refugees in Tanzania alone."
The EC added that more than 280,000 civilians had been internally displaced and were living in temporary camps, "dependent on international aid for their survival".
The aid would also be used to reduce mortality and morbidity among the refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees, women and children, the EC said.
Activities financed in Burundi under the latest humanitarian aid packages include food and nutrition; health; water and sanitation as well as the psychosocial needs of the vulnerable populations, the EC added.
In Tanzania, a country that hosts the largest refugee population on the African continent, activities financed under the ECHO aid include logistics within the refugee camps; water, sanitation, health, nutrition and hygiene; shelter, protection as well as other refugee services.
The EC said that although Tanzania was one of the world's poorest countries, with half of the population living on less than a $1 per day, stability and the absence of conflict had made it an attractive refuge for vulnerable people and victims of crisis in the region.
"For the past three years the registered refugee population in Tanzania has totalled approximately half a million people, and it is estimated that a further half a million refugees are unregistered and living outside refugee camps," the EC reported.
It added that ECHO funding under its 2004 Global Plan targets 476,000 people, one-third from the DRC and two-thirds from Burundi, living in 13 camps in northwestern Tanzania.
[For more details on ECHO activities, go to: http://europa.eu.int/]
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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