EC tackles landmines crisis
According to the latest European Union weekly digest, the EC adopted its 2006 Annual Work Programme for anti-personnel landmines with a budget of ‘17.5 million. The objective of the programme is to assist countries suffering the consequences of anti-personnel landmines and to create conditions necessary for their economic and social development. The focus countries in the 2006 programme include DRC, Burundi, Sudan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Cambodia, Georgia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Kosovo. The work programme is part of the EC Mine Action Strategy with a budget of ’60 million over the period 2005 to 2007. Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: “Landmines are a terrible blight on post-conflict communities and an impediment to reconstruction of the country. It is crucial to eliminate this aftermath of war as quickly as possible, so that those affected, particularly the victims, women and children, can move on and begin to build for a safer and more prosperous future.” According to the bulletin, the main priorities in the 2006 Work Programme are the marking, fencing and clearance of mines and reduction of stockpiles; mine risk education; support to facilities for mine victims and reintegration of mine victims into their communities; and building up the capacity of local and regional authorities to tackle landmines in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Beneficiary countries have been selected on the basis of six enumerated criteria that include commitment to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT or Ottawa Convention), high humanitarian and developmental needs, strategic importance for EU, sustainability and coherence with wider assistance, proven commitment of non-state parties to mine action and the principles of the MBT, and efficiency and effectiveness of the local/national mine action planning and programmes. The 2006 Work Programme proposes a ’12 million budget to co-finance operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Cambodia, Georgia, Yemen, Sudan, and the DRC through calls for proposals to be launched by the European Commission Delegations in those countries. A further ‘5.5 million will be approved by the Commission later in the year to cover targeted projects in Afghanistan, Burundi and Kosovo, together with some global projects. The EC is providing an additional ‘1 million for urgent support to Libya in its fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Benghazi, Libya. This money, that follows a first ‘1 million disbursement in July 2005, will be used to continue the ongoing technical and medical assistance to the Benghazi Centre for Infectious Diseases and Immunology (BCIDI), as well as to help in the social integration of the patients and of their families. The EU also is also helping the Libyan authorities in designing a national AIDS programme. These projects are part of the longer-term “HIV Action Plan for Benghazi”. The Action Plan was launched by the EU in November 2004 and is being implemented by the Libyan authorities with support from the Commission and EU member states. “When I visited the Benghazi centre in May 2005, I was struck by the suffering, but also by the courage of the children with HIV/AIDS. Today, we once again have proven that we not only have deep sympathy for these children, but that we are committed to improving their situation,” said Ferrero-Waldner The Commissioner added: “AIDS is a global challenge to modern medicine. Since July 2005 we have been sharing the best European expertise with Libya to improve its capacity to tackle this terrible disease. I hope that the further support we are releasing today will contribute to consolidating the results obtained so far thanks also to the good co-operation with the Libyan authorities.” In Benghazi, more than 400 children and mothers have been infected by HIV/AIDS. Measures undertaken were not succeeding in bringing the BCIDI to the high standard of medical care needed to tackle such a massive epidemic or in raising awareness of the wider community to reintegrate patients into society. The ‘2 million grant package, made available by the Commission in two parts since July 2005, is to provide policy advice to the Libyan government and health authorities at national and regional level and give technical assistance and specialist advice on the treatment of patients, systems for safe blood transfusion, laboratory analysis, hospital management and social reintegration of HIV-infected persons and their families into Libyan society. In February 1999, Libyan authorities arrested six Bulgarian health workers and a Palestinian doctor for deliberately infecting 426 children with HIV. The children were patients in the al-Fatih Children’s Hospital in Benghazi. A Benghazi court sentenced the foreign health workers to death by firing squad in May 2004. Nine Libyans who worked at the hospital were acquitted. At least 50 of the children infected with HIV have died, and the case has deeply angered the Libyan public.