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Humanitarian action plan a turning point, UN envoy says

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A US $681 million humanitarian action plan for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) launched by the United Nations and the European Commission seeks to meet the needs of 30 million vulnerable Congolese.

It focuses on the areas of food security, health, reintegration, protection, HIV/AIDS, coordination, education, water and sanitation, shelter, mine action and gender.

Jan Egeland, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, described the plan as a turning point in "our efforts to assist the people in DRC."

Speaking at an international ministerial conference on DRC in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, Egeland said that the effects of conflict in the central African nation had been almost incomprehensible.

"We as the international community have simply not done enough to address these needs," he said. "We have not had the resources we needed, and we have not reached many of the communities in need."

In addition to the UN agencies, 89 national and international NGOs have included their projects in the plan. More than half of the 330 projects are from NGOs.

"The plan is a major step forward in four ways," he said. "First, it provides a comprehensive picture of the humanitarian needs of the people of the DRC, and the programmes that we have designed to address these needs. Second, it includes the entire humanitarian community.

"Third, hard choices have been made to prioritise the plan, and we will use strong and active coordination on the ground to ensure that the scarce human and financial resources are channelled to the most vital emergency needs," Egeland said.

"Finally," he said, "the plan provides a strong platform for the transitional and development programmes that will help people to recover and rebuild, not just survive."

At a news conference after the meeting, Egeland said there were encouraging pledges from Belgium and the United Kingdom.

"That's a good start, but we have a long way ahead," he said.

Egeland declined to give figures, "as it was not a pledging conference, but a conference for the launching of the action plan."

However, Belgian Cooperation Minister Armand De Decker announced that his country would contribute 9.45 million euros ($11.25 million) to the plan, which ranks Belgium among the main humanitarian donors in the DRC, its former colony.

On its part, the EC said it would provide 38 million euros ($45 million) for humanitarian aid to DRC in 2006, in addition to the 78 million ($92.8 million) it had allocated in 2004 and 2005.

European Commissioner Louis Michel said since the start of DRC's political transition to democracy in April 2003, the EC had allocated 750 million euros ($892 million) in four sectors. These included the fight against poverty, humanitarian aid, macroeconomic assistance and support to the transition.

"At the same time as urgent needs are tackled," he said, "the work was being progressively passed on to the national authorities with longer-term funding from development donors such as the European Development Fund."

Michel said another concrete expression of Europe's solidarity with the Congolese people was the 149 million euros ($177 million) that was provided for the Electoral Process Support Programme.

"This is the highest amount of aid ever granted by the EU for elections in a non-member country," he said.

The EU is also supporting improved policing and security in the DRC.

As part of a common humanitarian strategy, the commission's 2006 humanitarian funding continues to focus on health, with an emphasis on children and women. Resources are also being provided to support displaced people and refugees. The commission works with approximately 180 implementing partners, including specialised UN agencies, the Red Cross movement and NGOs.

"This plan is an act of faith of the international community in the good outcome of the transitional process, even if it will remain fragile until the end," Michel said.


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