To help the most affected communities in south and south-east Asia hit by natural disasters and humanitarian crises, the European Commission has mobilized a new humanitarian funding package worth €10.5 million. This includes €1.5m in emergency aid for the victims of ongoing monsoons in India and Bangladesh, where more than 500,000 people have been displaced.
The remaining funds will be provided in Nepal and the Philippines as well as for disaster risk-reduction initiatives in the region.
"The countries in south Asia are facing an increasingly worse monsoon season. Heavy rains and flooding have created a large-scale humanitarian situation in India and Bangladesh. During these difficult times, EU solidarity makes a difference: our support will reach those most in need providing water, sanitation and essential supplies. In the wider region, the EU is also supporting Nepal and the Philippines to be better prepared for natural disasters and get aid to those most in need,” said Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides.
More details are available in the press release here.
Global Recovery: EU disburses SDR 141 million to the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today received the European Union (EU)'s contribution of SDR 141 million (equivalent to €170m or US$199m) to the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which provides grants for debt service relief to countries hit by catastrophic events, including public health disasters such as COVID-19.
International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said: “Through this contribution to the CCRT, Team Europe continues to stand in solidarity with its most vulnerable partners. In this difficult period, the resources freed up can provide social services for the most vulnerable people, such as access to essential healthcare and education for young people, including girls. Team Europe's Global Recovery Initiative is working to provide debt relief and sustainable investment for the SDGs.”
“The EU's generous contribution of €183m is critical to help the world's most vulnerable countries cope with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and continue providing health care, economic and social support for their people. I am grateful to the EU and its member states for their support and strong partnership. I urge other countries to contribute to the CCRT so we can in turn support our most vulnerable member countries,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva noted.
This disbursement is part of the EU's overall contribution of €183m (SDR 152m or US$215m) to the CCRT. It finances grants for the third tranche of CCRT debt service relief that was approved by the IMF´s Executive Board on 1 April.
The EU stands ready to disburse its remaining grant contribution in support of additional debt service relief in the context of potential future CCRT tranches. With this contribution, the EU, together with the EU institutions and its member states, has committed more than half of the current CCRT pledges.
Together with the third tranche, the IMF has provided about SDR519m (about US$736m or €626m) in grants for debt relief to all 29 CCRT-eligible members since the pandemic began in early 2020. The purpose of the debt relief initiative under the CCRT is to free up resources to meet exceptional balance of payments needs created by the disaster rather than having to allocate those resources to debt service.
The CCRT provides grants to pay debt service owed to the IMF by eligible low-income member countries that are hit by the most catastrophic of natural disasters or battling public health disasters - such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
CCRT-eligible countries are those eligible for concessional borrowing through the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) and whose annual per capita gross national income level is below $1,175. Vulnerable countries most seriously affected by the COVID-19 crisis benefit from the CCRT.
The EU, as a global player, can help integrate debt relief into a broader policy dialogue, financing strategies and actions, in order to ‘build back better'.
This €183m contribution is fully in line with Commission President von der Leyen's proposal for a Global Recovery Initiative that links investments and debt relief to the Sustainable Development Goals.
The beneficiaries of the third CCRT tranche are Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Togo and Yemen.
Quaking in their beds, sleepless Icelanders await volcanic eruption
Icelanders are yearning for some undisturbed shut-eye after tremors from tens of thousands of earthquakes have rattled their sleep for weeks in what scientists call an unprecedented seismic event, which might well end in a spectacular volcanic eruption, write Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen.
“At the moment we’re feeling it constantly. It’s like you’re walking over a fragile suspension bridge,” Rannveig Gudmundsdottir, a lifelong resident in the town of Grindavik, told Reuters.
Grindavik lies in the southern part of the Reykjanes Peninsula, a volcanic and seismic hot spot, where more than 40,000 earthquakes have occurred since Feb. 24, exceeding the total number of earthquakes registered there last year.
Located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, Iceland frequently experiences earthquakes as the plates slowly drift in opposite directions at a pace of around 2 centimetres each year.
The source of the past weeks’ earthquakes is a large body of molten rock, known as magma, moving roughly one kilometre (0.6 mile) beneath the peninsula, as it tries to push its way to the surface.
“We’ve never seen so much seismic activity,” Sara Barsotti, volcanic hazards coordinator at the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) told Reuters.
Some of those quakes clocked in at magnitudes as high as 5.7.
“Everyone here is so tired,” Gudmundsdottir, a 5th grade school teacher, said. “When I go to bed at night, all I think about is: Am I going to get any sleep tonight?”.
Many in Grindavik have visited relatives, spent time in summer houses, or even rented a hotel room in Reykjavik, the capital, just to get a break and a good night’s sleep.
Authorities in Iceland warned of an imminent volcanic eruption on the peninsula in early March, but said they did not expect it to disturb international air traffic or damage critical infrastructure nearby.
Unlike the eruption in 2010 of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which halted approximately 900,000 flights and forced hundreds of Icelanders from their homes, the eruption on the peninsula is not expected to spew much ash or smoke into the atmosphere.
Experts are expecting lava to erupt from fissures in the ground, possibly resulting in spectacular lava fountains, which could extend 20 to 100 metres in the air.
Already last year authorities put an emergency plan in place for Grindavik. One option includes putting locals on boats in the North Atlantic, if an eruption shuts roads to the remote town.
“I trust the authorities to keep us informed and evacuate us,” Gudmundsdottir said. “I’m not scared, just tired.”
Croatia earthquake: EU member states offer further assistance
Following the initial offers of assistance to Croatia – most of it dispatched in the first 24 hours after the devastating earthquake of 29 December 2020 – EU member states are offering further in-kind assistance. Sleeping bags, housing containers, lighting systems and mattresses, provided by Germany, France and Austria, are on their way to Croatia or will be in the coming days. Slovenia delivered supplementary housing containers to Croatia on 11 January 2021. “Once more, I would like to thank all EU Member States for their prompt response to the earthquake. The overwhelming response of 15 EU member states and one participating state helping the Croatian people in times of need is a tangible example of EU solidarity,” said Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič. In 2020 alone, the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre co-ordinated more than 100 times assistance to countries in Europe and worldwide due to crises.
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