Under a decision issued by Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs will allocate 1.9 million euros in humanitarian aid to the victims of the crises in the Sahel region and Syria. In addition, one million euros will be granted in support of the World Health Organisation humanitarian programme.
The humanitarian situation in the Sahel region has been deteriorating over the spring. Already suffering from multiple problems caused by poverty, draught and violent conflicts, the Sahel region is now confronted with a refugee crisis. Clashes between the Mali government troops and Tuareg rebels have resulted in internal displacement of 130,000 people in northern Mali, and another 200,000 have fled to the neighbouring countries Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. As a result of the severe food crisis that originates from late 2011, roughly 16 million people are threatened by famine in the Sahel region. Help is especially needed among over a million of under five-year-olds, who are threatened by severe malnourishment.
The UN Children's Fund Unicef is also responding to the current refugee crisis in Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso. The one million euros allocated by Finland will help relieve the urgent needs of women and children by offering drinking water and emergency food assistance for children suffering from acute malnourishment. International Committee of the Red Cross will receive 600,000 million euros through the Finnish Red Cross. In Mali and Niger, the target is to help the ones injured in battle, support stabilization of livelihoods, improve access to basic services and distribute food assistance.
The uprising against the authoritarian administration in Syria has not ended but grown worse since its beginning in last spring. Over 10,000 thousand people have died and hundreds of thousands of people have fled to other parts of the country and the neighbouring countries in terror of the violence by the government troops and the supporting militias. Violence has been continuous especially around the cities of Homs, Idlib and Daraa. Parallel to the originally non-violent uprising, armed resistance has emerged. Finland responds to the Syria crisis by granting 300,000 to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR that delivers aid to the people fleeing Syria mainly in the neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Finland has previously allocated one million euros to the Syria crisis through the International Red Cross and the World Food Programme WFP.
The World Health Organisation WHO has a central role as an organiser of healthcare and coordinator of international emergency assistance whenever humanitarian crises occur. The organisation is currently undergoing reforms aimed at improving effectiveness of its humanitarian work. The one million euros allocated by Finland will especially help strengthen the WHO field operations.
Further information: Ulla-Maija Finskas, Head of the Unit for Humanitarian Assistance, tel. +358 400 431 921, and First Secretary Anssi Kullberg, tel. +358 9 1605 6340