On Monday, the European Union (EU) donated a fire fighting truck, equipped to fight all types of fires, to the Damak Municipality in Jhapa district in eastern Nepal. This donation is expected to help the Damak Municipality in providing immediate and efficient response during the frequent fires in the refugee camps and in the host communities.
The donation is a part of the overall EU funding of Euro 2,950,000 to the UN refugee agency for the period 2011 to 2014, stated a press statement issued jointly by the UNHCR and EU.
Handing over the keys of the fire truck to the Mayor of the Municipality, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Nepal, Dr. Alexander Spachis said, “We are very pleased to make such an important contribution, which will help save precious lives during fire outbreaks not only in the refugee camps but also in the local community and hope that it will be used efficiently for maximum output.”
Every year hundreds of refugees from Bhutan become homeless due to fire in the camps. This happens mostly during the dry season as the building and roofing materials of the huts in the camps are bamboo and thatch and the dryness and wind during the dry season makes it easy for fire to spread at the slightest ignition.
“We are extremely grateful for this humanitarian gesture by the EU which would certainly help in ensuring that both the host communities and refugees receive timely support to control the fires, thereby reducing the risk of damage of lives and property,” said Stephane Jaquemet, UNHCR Representative in Nepal.
The EU has provided continuous support to UNHCR’s activities in Nepal since the beginning of the programme for Bhutanese refugees. The 2011-14 contribution is being used for meeting the ongoing protection and material needs of the refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal, including health and nutrition, education, legal assistance, sanitation, shelter and water.
The EU is one of UNHCR’s most important donors. The EU is a major provider of humanitarian and development aid, and a key player in the international effort to develop policies to improve aid effectiveness and coordination at the global level, added the statement.
A major resettlement programme is underway for the refugees from Bhutan. So far, more than 73,500 refugees from Bhutan have left their camps in Nepal to begin a new life in third countries.
Some 40,582 remain in the camps, which was 108,000 before the programme began. Among the remaining population, over 31,300 persons have already declared an interest in resettlement.