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Wednesday 28 December 2005
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CENTRAL ASIA: ECHO grant to bolster disaster preparedness

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  UNDP Tajikistan

Natural disasters are all too common in Central Asia - like this recent flood in Tajikistan that paralysed much of the country

ANKARA, 7 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The European Commission's (EC) recent assistance of 3.5 million euros to Central Asia is intended to bolster disaster prevention and preparedness in the region.

The funds are being allocated through the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and the aid package, agreed in August, is part of the EC's Disaster Preparedness Programme (DIPECHO).

"This will be the third DIPECHO action plan for Central Asia and will focus on strengthening the capacity of local communities to predict, provide early warning on, respond to and cope with disasters. It will also protect vulnerable groups from likely natural disasters through small-scale infrastructure works," Nathalie Charbonneau from ECHO's information unit, said from Brussels on Tuesday.

Although the programme is regional in nature, efforts will focus on the most vulnerable communities, both in terms of their exposure to hazards and their ability to cope, ECHO said, adding that those included most of Tajikistan, parts of Uzbekistan and southern Kyrgyzstan, including the Ferghana Valley.

Some 1.4 million people are expected to directly benefit from the project and it is likely that a far greater number of people may benefit in the long term as a result of a general increase in disaster resilience thanks to the capacity building and awareness raising components of the programme.

The interventions are expected to be carried out through ECHO's partner organisations, including the Aga Khan Foundation, Care Netherlands, Christian Aid UK, German Agro Action, Hilfswerk Austria, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Mercy Corps Scotland, Merlin, Mission East, the Netherlands Red Cross and Oxfam.

With DIPECHO's new action plan, 9 million euros will have been allocated through the programme for disaster preparedness in Central Asia over the past three years, making ECHO the largest single donor for disaster preparedness assistance in the region.

According to ECHO, between 1992 and 2005 in Central Asia, 2,600 people were killed, 130,000 made homeless and a further 5.5 million (almost 10 percent of the region's population) affected by natural disasters in the region. In 2004, heavy flooding north of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, contaminated the city's water supplies. In 2005, both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have experienced heavy snowfalls, avalanches and flooding that severely affected local communities.

"By preparing local communities and individuals with mechanisms to cope with natural disasters, such as first aid training, disaster awareness and response plans, community-based early warning systems etc., or to mitigate the effects of natural disasters, in terms of both cost to human life as well as livelihoods and capital, can be significantly reduced," ECHO said.

Meanwhile, Central Asian geography dictates that specific natural disasters may not be confined by national boundaries, the European aid body warned, noting that many valleys and river basins were shared among the Central Asian republics - for example in the densely populated Ferghana Valley - and therefore the countries share the same hazard risks.

"To address disasters that could have a regional impact, further work is required from all parties to integrate and consolidate regional governmental efforts," Charbonneau said.


 Theme(s) Early Warning
Other recent CENTRAL ASIA reports:

Weekly news wrap,  23/Dec/05

IRIN-Asia Weekly Round-up 51 covering the period 17 - 23 December 2005,  23/Dec/05

Weekly news wrap,  16/Dec/05

IRIN-Asia Weekly Round-up 50 covering the period 10 - 16 December 2005,  16/Dec/05

Weekly news wrap,  9/Dec/05

Other recent Early Warning reports:

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Acute malnutrition rates rise as food crisis deepens, 27/Dec/05

WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 309 covering 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 53 for 18 – 22 December 2005, 22/Dec/05

ETHIOPIA: Birds test negative for avian flu, 20/Dec/05

KENYA: Gov't appeals for food aid for people in arid areas, 19/Dec/05

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