Cover Image
close this bookThe Courier N° 136 - Nov-Dec 1992 - Dossier Humanitarian Aid - Country Reports: Soa Tomé- Principe- Senegal (EC Courier, 1992, 96 p.)
close this folderDossier
View the documentHumaritarian aid
View the documentCommunity humanitarian aid: some facts and figures
View the documentThe response of the United Nations to humanitarian emergencies by
View the documentHumanitarian assistance: the needs and the response
View the documentHumanitarian assistance turns to democratic interference
View the documentUnited Nations Resolutions
View the documentPriorities for UNHCR Today
View the documentNew challenges for the international community by Nicholas HINTON *
View the documentJournalists and humanitarian emergencies
View the document«Médecins sans Frontières» - Helping hands for the sick and injured
View the documentEurope helps the former Yugoslavia
View the documentSomalia: Millions face starvation
View the documentEmergency humanitarian aid for the Iraqi peoples
View the documentThe 1991 Bangladesh cyclone: the Commission's response
View the documentDrought in Southern Africa

Community humanitarian aid: some facts and figures

The European Community provides humanitarian aid in two forms, food and finance. Food aid is financed from its annual budget, whoever the recipients are. Emergency and refugee aid are financed from the European Development Fund for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States which have signed the Lomonvention, or, for other countries, from the annual EC budget. Humanitarian aid for Central and Eastern Europe is also financed from the annual budget.

Food aid

The Community gives over half its food aid to food-deficit countries for sale, normally to help encourage positive local food production policies. Substantial quantities are also given free to vulnerable, low-income groups, such as young children, mothers, pregnant women, schoolchildren, sick or handicapped people, the elderly and refugees. This type of aid is normally channelled through international agencies - a big agency such as the World Food Programme regularly distributes over 200 000 tonnes of EC cereals aid a year - or NGOs, which in recent years have themselves distributed as much as 200 000 tonnes of Community products a year.

In an unforeseen crisis situation, where famine, or an imminent danger of famine, poses a serious threat to lives or health, the Commission can also send emergency food aid. Under this procedure, decision, procurement and delivery times are cut and the EC pays transport costs up to the final destination - a valuable contribution, as these can be two or three times the original cost of the food transported.

In 1991, the last complete year for which figures are available, over 600 000 tonnes of such aid were provided, including a Special Programme for Africa; this was a much higher proportion of the food aid effort (totalling nearly 1.6 million tonnes) than the 10% normally given as emergency food aid. The total value of food aid supplied in 1991 was ECU 657 million, including ECU 140 million for the Special Programme. The bulk of the aid was in the form of cereals, plus milk-powder, vegetable oil, sugar, butter oil and other products.

In 1992, Parliament and Council adopted a special food aid programme worth ECU 22 million for the developing countries hardest hit by drought and civil war. The bulk of this aid is intended for the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa and is now being delivered.

Emergency aid

The Community grants emergency aid to victims of natural and man-made disasters in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and to other non-Community countries, largely in central and eastern Europe. This type of aid comes from two different sources. The European Development Fund or EDF is used to help disaster victims in the ACP States and the overseas countries and territories associated with the Community (these include the Netherlands Antilles, the British Virgin Islands, French Polynesia and others), while funds for those in developing and other third countries come from the general EC budget.

Emergency aid is defined in Article 254 of the Fourth Lomonvention as follows:

'Emergency assistance shall be accorded to ACP States faced with serious economic and social difficulties of an exceptional nature resulting from natural disasters or extraordinary circumstances having comparable effects. The assistance, which is intended to make, by the most suitable means, a real contribution to remedying the immediate difficulties: (a) shall be sufficiently flexible to take any form adapted to the circumstances, including the supply of a wide range of relief goods and services and/or the distribution of cash to victims; (b) may also cover the financing of immediate measures to make damaged structures and equipment operational again and to ensure minimum viability; (c) shall be non-reimbursable and made available quickly and easily.'

In 1991, the Commission, which manages such aid on behalf of the Community, made grants totalling ECU 189 020 000 to help disaster victims. This comprised ECU 55 945 000 from the EDF and ECU 133 075 000 from the EC's general budget for 1991. The second of these amounts included ECU 8 million to Yugoslavia from the PHARE programme for central and eastern Europe and ECU 300 000 from PHARE to Romania, as well as ECU 4 million carried forward from 1990.

Substantial assistance from the European Development Fund continued to be needed for victims of conflict and drought in Africa. More than ECU 49 million, or 88% of the total emergency aid available under the EDF, were allocated to victims of a combination of both in six countries and the regions bordering them, with ECU 15.5 million going to the Sudan, ECU 11.2 million to Somalia, ECU 9.3 million to Liberia, ECU 7.7 million to Ethiopia, ECU 3.4 million to Mozambique and ECU 3 million to Angola. The rest of the funds available were used for operations in other African countries, Papua-New Guinea and Haiti.

An additional appropriation of ECU 100 million was allocated to the relevant item of the 1991 budget by the Council decision to assist displaced and refugee Iraqis. Together with ECU 4 million carried forward from 1990, ECU 107.5 million (of which ECU 6 million was for emergency food aid) went to dealing with the effects of the Gulf crisis.

With these funds the Community financed an airlift involving 330 aeroplanes and supplied some 1.5 million blankets, 64 000 tents and nearly 60 000 tonnes of food. In addition to using its traditional UN, Red Cross and NGO partners, the Commission took direct action of its own and was involved in operations carried out by the Member States.

Other operations under the 1991 budget included emergency aid to those affected by events in the former Soviet Union (ECU 5 million) and Albania (ECU 2.5 million) and by the conflict in Yugoslavia (ECU 13 million). Emergency aid was also sent to victims of cholera in South America, notably Peru (ECU 1.775 million), of cyclones and floods in Bangladesh (ECU 2.4 million), of the eruption of a volcano in the Philippines (ECU 0.9 million) and of earthquakes in Peru (ECU 0.225 million), Afghanistan and Pakistan (ECU 0.5 million), Costa Rica and Panama (ECU 0.25 million) and Guatemala (ECU 0.2 million).

The emergency aid funds were used to finance medical and sanitation programmes and to provide shelter, food, clothing, transport and other essentials for the populations concerned. The work was carried out by specialised international and nongovernmental organisations, both European and local, as well as by the governments of the Member States and the Commission itself.

Of the ECU 189 million which the Commission decided to allocate to emergency aid in 1991, more than ECU 186 million was spent on a total of 354 contracted operations. By far the largest share of emergency aid funds was channelled through non-governmental organisations.

The Commission's emergency aid operations were closely coordinated with those of the Member States, by means of meetings and exchanges of information. The Member States for their part made nearly ECU 697 million available for emergency aid schemes in 1991.

Refugee aid

Community aid to refugees, returnees and displaced persons throughout the world, mostly in Asia, Africa and Central America, accounts for about two fifths of its total humanitarian aid. In fact the EC and its Member States are the largest contributors (35% to 40% on average) to the relief programmes of the United Nations agencies with special responsibility for refugees, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Community's average level of assistance to refugees and the displaced has been about ECU 190-220 million a year since 1988.

The main purpose of the funds is to finance the medium-term assistance required to encourage self-sufficiency between the emergency phase (exodus, arrival in camps) and final settlement (full integration in the country or region of asylum or reintegration in the place of origin). Half of the Community's aid to refugees from 1984 to 1989 was devoted to Africa's then four million refugees (and possibly as many displaced persons), the numbers of whom have since grown dramatically owing to the fighting in the Horn of Africa and Sudan, the persistence of guerrilla warfare in Angola and Mozambique, the drought in parts of Eastern and Southern Africa and the civil war in Liberia.


Outside the ACP and other developing countries, the EC has also been involved, since the withdrawal of the Soviet presence in 1989, in providing long-term economic aid to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe under the 'PHARE' programme. Since 1991, 10% of the PHARE budget has been available for use as humanitarian aid, to help those in severe distress because of economic hardship. Total EC humanitarian aid to the countries concerned decided on in 1990-91 came to ECU 113 million, including ECU 27 million in emergency aid.