Brussels, 6 June 2011
Statement of Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response on the release of Bulgarian humanitarian workers in Darfur
Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said today:
"I am relieved to learn from the Government of Bulgaria that the three Bulgarians who had been abducted in Darfur, Sudan while working for the World Food Programme, are now out of harm's way, and will soon be reunited with their families and friends.
As the European Commissioner for humanitarian aid, but also as Bulgarian and a mother, I share the joy of the three humanitarian workers - Branko Chorbadjiiski, Alexander Dimitrov and Veselin Manolov, their families and all my fellow Bulgarians. My gratitude goes to all those who have provided support and who worked tirelessly to secure the safe release of the aircrew, in particular the Government of Sudan, the Bulgarian Government and WFP. Mr Chorbadjiiski, Mr Dimitrov and Mr Manolov were in Darfur to help save lives, and I am grateful that their lives were also saved. But we must not forget that other humanitarian workers die and are injured while serving their noble cause: to alleviate the pain and desperation of the world's most pained and desperate.
I worry that what has happened to the three brave Bulgarians could befall any humanitarian worker, particularly in Darfur, where I am concerned about the growing incidence of abductions and the increasingly insecure situation. This threatens the safety of humanitarians, but moreover, it can interrupt and delay aid to desperately needy civilians in Darfur who lead a life of indiscriminate violence, starvation and need.
I call on all who have influence to ensure the safety of humanitarians, so that they can continue to help the millions of people whose lives rely on humanitarian assistance".
Three Bulgarian citizens working as helicopter aircrew for UNHAS in the Darfur region of Sudan were seized by a group of gunmen on 13 January 2011. They were abducted while making a round trip to Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, during a humanitarian mission in the area. The aircrew have now been safely released after 175 days in captivity.
The air service UNHAS is run by the World Food Programme (WFP) which is financially supported by the European Commission as an essential service enabling humanitarian workers to assist the victims of humanitarian crises in Sudan. Since the beginning of the Darfur conflict, the Commission has targeted around €34 million to support the work of UNHAS.
In June 2010, the European Union allocated €150 million to address the needs of the most vulnerable populations in Sudan, in particular in war-affected areas: South of Sudan and Darfur, the border regions between North and South Sudan (the Transitional Areas) and East Sudan. This brought the total EU funding for humanitarian aid to over €750 million since 2003.