Council pledges long-term commitment to tsunami relief

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The EU’s foreign affairs, development and health ministers have
agreed that, following the short-term humanitarian relief
efforts, the focus should now shift to the
rehabilitation and long-term reconstruction of the tsunami-hit
regions.

Meeting in an extraordinary session on 7 January, the EU’s
foreign affairs, development and health ministers have agreed
that humanitarian aid should be the main focus of tsunami
relief efforts at this point. The Council highlighted the
importance of actions to prevent the emergence of epidemics and
protect human lives by ensuring food supply and access to drinking
water, medicines and vaccines.

However, EU ministers emphasised the need for a smooth
transition from the humanitarian relief phase through a period of
rehabilitation to the longer term objective of reconstruction. The
Council underlined the role of the UN in co-ordinating and managing
these efforts. The Council has invited the Commission to propose a
strategy for better disaster preparedness in the future. The
EU will set out its ideas at a UN-hosted donors’ conference on
11 January.

The tsunami disaster affected 12 countries and
claimed more than 150,000 lives. Germany (over 60
dead), Sweden (52 dead) and the UK (49 dead) were among
the worst hit EU members with hundreds more of their
nationals still missing.

The EU and its members have so far contributed over 1.5
billion euros in public donations to the disaster-stricken
areas. The Council has called on the Commission and the
European Investment Bank to devise a new financial instrument,
called the ‘Indian Ocean Tsunami Facility’, which could provide
funding of up to 1 billion euros. The Council will organise
a follow-up meeting on 31 January to assess medium to
long-term response plans to the tsunami disaster.

The Council’s conclusions underline that the aid given to
help tsunami victims should not lead to a reduction in resources
needed for African humanitarian and development aid.

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