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Brussels, 13 December 2005

European Commission provides €8 million for victims of crises in Northern and Southern Caucasus

The European Commission has adopted two new humanitarian aid decisions totalling €8 million for victims of the ongoing crises in Chechnya (€6 million) and Georgia (€2 million). The first aid package will complement the previous decision for victims of the conflict in Chechnya. The recipients will include internally displaced persons (IDPs) and vulnerable groups in Chechnya as well as IDPs in Ingushetia and Dagestan. The second aid package will support the most vulnerable people in Western Georgia, in particular those affected by the unresolved conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia.

Funds are being allocated via the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel and will be channelled through international agencies operating in the region.

Commissioner Michel said: “The humanitarian face of the Chechen conflict must not be forgotten. Military and security operations have caused massive destruction and displacement. One third of the Chechen civilian population is still in need of external humanitarian assistance. With this new financial decision, we will bring our total assistance to Northern Caucasus for 2005 to € 26,3 million. This is our fifth biggest humanitarian operation worldwide”.

Six years into the second conflict, humanitarian needs remain acute in the Northern Caucasus. Out of a population of around 800,000, some 200,000 people are estimated to be displaced within Chechnya, many of whom returned from Ingushetia last year after the closure of tent camps there. Living conditions throughout Chechnya, particularly in Grozny, are extremely difficult. Outside Chechnya, over 26,000 people in Ingushetia and some 10,000 in Dagestan are still displaced, most of them in dire conditions. Insecurity continues to prevail, with military operations still going on, especially in Southern Chechnya, and regular militant attacks on federal forces and local militia.

The civilian population continues to suffer harshly in a conflict characterised by numerous human rights violations. In Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, this new €6 million decision finances the distribution of basic and supplementary food for the most vulnerable people, supports primary education and vocational training as well as psychological assistance for people, especially children, affected by war-related trauma. It also provides mine-risk education. In addition, the funding will cover the improvement of water and sanitation facilities in Chechnya and Ingushetia, and the basic rehabilitation of private houses in Chechnya. Income-generating activities will also be developed for vulnerable households in Chechnya.

The delivery of aid will depend on access and security conditions, which remain very difficult in the region. All humanitarian aid organisations continue to work on a remote-control basis in Chechnya, without a permanent expatriate presence.

Since the beginning of the current conflict in autumn 1999, The Commisison through ECHO has allocated over €170 million to the crisis, making the EU the largest donor in the region.

The second decision of €2 million will target victims of the conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia. Despite a UN-brokered agreement in 1994 to end the fighting, hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced and live in dire conditions in Abkhazia and the rest of Western Georgia. With the departure of ethnic Georgians, Abkhazia’s population has plummeted from pre-war estimates of 500,000 to now only 100,000 to 150,000 residents, 15,000 of whom are considered destitute. An estimated 200,000 Georgians who left Abkhazia remain displaced within Georgia, largely in the Western region.

This new decision will concentrate on Western Georgia, including Abkhazia. It will provide basic food to 35,000 of the poorest people and fund food and income generating projects for some 5,000 vulnerable people. A mother-and-child healthcare project will focus on improving women’s access to healthcare. The decision will also fund basic rehabilitation of derelict collective centres for IDPs and the rehabilitation of private houses for Georgian returnees in Abkhazia.

In Georgia, the Commission’s humanitarian aid has provided over €98 million since 1993.
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