"It is tough dealing with emergencies and humanitarian disasters but the work we do is the best illustration I can think of to describe our common European values. People in Europe care and because they care, ECHO can do its job"
European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
The European Union as a whole is the world's largest donor of humanitarian aid. Together, Member States and European Institutions contribute more than half of official global humanitarian aid.
The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) was established in 1992. In its 20 year existence it has provided €14 billion of humanitarian assistance to victims of conflict and disasters in 140 countries around the globe. In 2011 ECHO distributed humanitarian aid worth €1,1 billion. While this figure represents less than 1% of the European Union's total budget, it provided assistance to 117 million of the world's most vulnerable people in over 91 countries outside the European Union.
The European Union’s (EU) mandate to ECHO is to provide emergency assistance and relief to the victims of natural disasters or armed conflict outside the EU. The aid is intended to go directly to those in distress, irrespective of race, religion or political conviction.
In order to implement humanitarian operations, ECHO cooperates with over 200 partners. In partnership with these humanitarian organisations ECHO has a very fast response capacity allowing funding and staff to be rapidly deployed to where help is most needed.
ECHO’s task is to ensure goods and services get to crisis zones fast. Goods may include essential supplies, specific food assistance, shelter, water-sanitation facilities, medical equipment, medicines and fuel. Services may include mine-clearance, medical teams, water purification teams, logistical and coordination support. Goods and services reach disaster or conflict affected regions via ECHO partners.
The European Commission’s response to humanitarian needs in Sri Lanka
The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department, with a presence in Sri Lanka since 1994, has provided over Euro 162 million (LKR 24.3 billion) in aid to victims of both the conflict and natural disasters in the island. ECHO's activities benefit vulnerable populations affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka, as well as the Sri Lankan refugees living in camps in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Through ECHO, the EU has also provided emergency relief in response to natural disasters, such as the floods of January 2011 in the East and North Central Provinces, and the Asian tsunami of December 2004. In 2011, significant funds have been set aside through disaster preparedness funding instrument called ‘DIPECHO’, to support communities prepare for natural disasters and reduce the risks arising from them.
In Sri Lanka, ECHO’s assistance focuses on the sectors of shelter, non-food relief items, water and sanitation, humanitarian food assistance, health, psycho-social support, capacity building, protection, demining and coordination.
In 2010-2011, ECHO provided Euro 22.6 million (LKR 3.3 billion) worth of humanitarian aid for populations affected by the conflict and floods.