EU to step up aid effort as virus deepens global crises

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union unveiled plans Wednesday to step up international aid efforts, support humanitarian agencies and encourage new donors to contribute as the COVID-19 pandemic deepens the impact of several crises around the world.

“Humanitarian needs are at an all-time high. They are driven largely by the resurgence in conflicts, and they are combined with climate change, environmental degradation, population growth and failed governance,” EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Janez Lenarcic told reporters in Brussels.

“The Covid pandemic has only exacerbated this,” he added.

The U.N estimates that over 235 million people will require humanitarian aid this year, an increase of 40% from 2020, and a near tripling of estimated needs since 2014. U.N humanitarian appeals jumped last year to almost €32.5 billion ($38.7 billion) — the most ever, in part due to the impact of COVID-19.

Only around €15 billion ($17.8 billion) was provided. The top 10 donors supplied an estimated 83% of the money. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 36% of global aid funding.

The bloc plans to set up a crisis response system so it can provide direct help when countries and aid agencies are overwhelmed.

It would build on the emergency air-bridge scheme the EU launched to help African countries when airports shut down last year as the coronavirus spread, by helping to provide transport and logistical assistance.

The EU also aims to address the root causes by boosting development assistance. It plans to increase its support for international agencies and aid groups, and improve cooperation with organizations and institutions that help foster peace.

It will also focus on the impact of climate change and wants to target its help to vulnerable people living in disaster-prone countries. The bloc also hopes to draw in more donors and the private sector to make up the funding shortfall.

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