Acting on a proposal by Minister of Foreign Affairs Nickolay Mladenov, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria has approved the granting of 100 000 leva humanitarian aid to some of the most destitute regions in the world.
Of this amount, Bulgaria granted 30 000 leva to Syria, where an armed conflict that has been continuing for more than 18 months has cost thousands of lives. So far all attempts to end the violence have been unsuccessful. Organisations such as the UN and the Red Cross are doing everything possible to take care of the dozens injured in the war every day. In parallel, the conflict has meant that neighbouring countries have been overwhelmed by a huge refugee wave. The humanitarian situation in Syria itself is no better. The lack of essential goods is more acute and this has compromised the lives of people there, many of whom cannot escape because they are trapped. As part of a co-ordinated effort to help the destitute population, Bulgaria will donate 30 000 leva to the Office of the United Nations for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
Another part of the approved aid will go to the Sahel. This region of Africa, including Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, is affected by a chronic food crisis. According to the EC, famine in the Sahel threatens 18 million people. Nearly eight million of them cannot cope without help. Overcoming hunger in the region is a priority for the Bulgarian Commissioner for International Co-operation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva.
Another part of the approved aid will go to support Palestinian refugees through the UN agency for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). One of the largest camps of Palestinian refugees is in Syria. The worsening situation in the country with regard to access to food and basic necessities impacts most strongly on people in the refugee camps. According to the agency, a total of 225 000 Palestinian refugees alone are affected by the conflict in Syria. With the funds provided by the Bulgarian government, UNRWA can assist programmes in support of education for Palestinian refugees. The agency effectively supports the largest network of primary schools in the Middle East. In addition, UNRWA cares for the health of children in the refugee camps as well as delivering food and medicine.
Bulgaria periodically provides humanitarian assistance in response to disasters and other crises that require rapid response to save lives or provide relief to victims. In 2010, for example, such assistance was provided to Haiti. Grants were also secured for Pakistan, Chile, Ukraine and Moldova. In 2012, Bulgaria responded to an appeal from UNESCO, and with funds from its special Trust Fund, financed a project organised to maintain the educational level of children of Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Unfortunately, humanitarian needs are increasing and delivery of aid, although increasing, is also becoming increasingly inadequate.