The Catalan Government increases aid to the Horn of Africa

Despite exceptional increases for concrete development projects, external relations and international cooperation services and funds were reduced by almost 50% within the plan to reduce public spending in 2011. The Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation decided to increase financial aid to the Horn of Africa to help with the humanitarian crisis that is affecting 13.5 million people.


October 12, 2011 12:29 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalonia will increase financial aid to the Horn of Africa to fight a humanitarian crisis that is affecting 13.5 million people, trapped by armed conflict and a persistent drought. Many of the people affected by severe malnutrition and dehydration are children. The Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation announced on Tuesday that it will triple the initial 350,000 euros foreseen in July in order to reach more than 1 million euros. Catalan NGOs working in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti will be eligible to receive funds. “Despite the budget difficulties, we had to be present in the Horn of Africa”, said the Catalan Government Director for Development Cooperation, Carles Llorens. In fact, the Catalan Government’s development cooperation services, as well as the rest of the external relations department, has had their budget almost halved in 2011. The Catalan Government is undergoing a plan to globally reduce public spending by 10% in order to reduce the public deficit. The spending cuts affect all government areas but not to the same degree; healthcare and education have been some of the areas with a lower budget reduction percentage whilst external relations have been one of the most affected. Spanish nationalist media and politicians have been heavily criticising the existence of the external relations department, which represents 0.1% of the Catalan Government’s budget in 2011.

The Catalan Government’s Director for Development Cooperation recognised that the budget for this policy was reduced by 43% compared to 2010. In 2011, the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD) will have 22 million euros to spend. In addition, half of its staff may be laid off, since the agency has been restructured. Francesc Mateu, President of the Catalan Federation of Development NGOs said he is worried about the future of the agency. However, he was satisfied with “the important effort” the ACCD is doing to contribute to the global call to solve the devastating humanitarian crisis affecting the Horn of Africa.

In addition, Barcelona’s City Council has contributed 130,000 euros. Councillor for Presidency and Territory, Jordi Martí said “we saw that in this particular case we had to be near the people working on the field”.

A humanitarian crisis affecting 13.5 million people

Despite the financial aid, the situation in the field remains dramatic. “People are still dying here”, claimed Idoia, an Intermon Oxfam worker in Kenya. “In some places, it has not rained in the last two years”, explained Idoia. “Food is expensive, even for people with money”, added Lucy, a nurse working for Farmamundi in Nairobi. According to the last estimates made in July, 400 million euros were still missing to face the humanitarian crisis.

In Somalia, the armed conflict has made it more difficult to receive humanitarian aid. The situation has worsened since the October 4th attack in Mogadiscio, where 65 people died. Idoia added that in the south of the country, where combats are escalating, “80 people die everyday”. Out of the 13.5 million people, 4 million are located in Somalia, where access to humanitarian organisations is almost non-existent. This is why Somalis look for shelters out of their country, mostly in Kenya. The arrival of thousands of exhausted people to the refugee camps is too much for these conglomerations of tents and huts, already congested years ago. The weakest die on their way.

A workshop to raise awareness on the situation

The organisations within the Catalan Committee for Emergency Humanitarian Aid organised a workshop on Tuesday for media professionals on the Horn of Africa. One of the objectives was to gather, in a single session, the main managers of the involved Catalan organisations. It was in this forum were the Catalan Government’s Director for Development Cooperation announced the increase in financial help for the Horn of Africa.

The Catalan Government’s external services had their budget cut by half in 2011

The external relations department contributes to the internationalisation of an exporting economy such as that of Catalonia. It also promotes the Catalan language and culture, which are very often neglected by the Spanish external relations services. Precisely because of this reason, the majority of Catalan citizens voted for parties defending the existence of Catalan external relations services; these parties represent around 85% of Catalan MPs. In addition, the external relations department includes the development cooperation programmes, which follow the global trend of decentralised cooperation, recognised by many international organisations. Many town halls and regions across Europe have their own development cooperation programmes. According to the European Commission, this type of international cooperation represented 12% of all the Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2010 and it often offers a local and grounded perspective. However, Spanish nationalist media and politicians have been heavily criticising the existence of the external relations department, which will represent 0.1% of the Catalan Government’s budget in 2011 and has seen its budget halved in only one year.