The European Commission has approved a
second Action Plan to help vulnerable populations in Central Asia prepare
for and respond to natural disasters. The EUR 2.5 million will finance
small-scale infrastructure projects to protect vulnerable groups from likely
natural disasters, and will support activities that strengthen the capacity
of local communities to predict, respond to and cope with disasters. Particular
focus will be on disaster prone Tajikistan. Funds will be allocated via
the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) under the responsibility
of Commissioner Poul Nielson.
Over the past decade, natural disasters such as landslides, floods and earthquakes have killed about 2,500 people and affected 5.5 million (10% of the total population) in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
The current Action Plan's specific objectives are to strengthen the capacity of local communities to foresee, respond to and cope with disasters, and to protect vulnerable groups from likely natural disasters through small-scale infrastructure works. Local response capacities will be strengthened through local disaster management plans, early warning systems, disaster preparedness training, radio communication systems and public awareness campaigns. Vulnerable groups will be protected from avalanches, mud slides and flooding through the construction of protection barriers, the reinforcement of mountainsides and the strengthening of beds and banks of flood-prone rivers.
Most of the €2.5 million will be for operations in Tajikistan, the most vulnerable of the five countries. It is particularly prone to natural catastrophes including earthquakes, flooding and drought. In 2003, 120 incidents of flooding, avalanches and landslides were recorded as well as 12 significant earth tremors. The country is also regularly affected by outbreaks of infectious diseases. The funding allocated by ECHO will also boost local capacity in the health sector both among medical personnel and at the administrative level. Disaster-prone regions in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan will also be targeted.
ECHO provided nearly €1 million for ad hoc disaster preparedness activities in Central Asia between 1998 and 2002. This support was stepped up in April 2003 when ECHO launched the first disaster preparedness plan for Central Asia worth €3 million.
The current funding is part of ECHO's general disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO) that also foresees activities in Central and South America, in Caribbean, in South Asia and South East Asia.
Activities will be implemented by the National Red Crescent Societies, local authorities and NGO's.