European Union to send medical aid to Guatemala

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 21 June 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1781
  1. Josh Hamilton
  1. New York

    One of the United Nation's overlooked but none the less spectacular successes has been the brokering of a definitive end to Guatemala's brutal 36 year civil war in 1996. The European Union–a key player in the peace process–has just announced a joint declaration of assist-ance and cooperation with Guatemala, agreeing to provide $250m (£156m) until the year 2000 for social, medical, and developmental projects.

    The accord was signed on 6 June in Guatemala City by Manuel Marin, vice president of the European Commission, and Eduardo Stein Barillas, the Guatemalan foreign minister. The European Union says that it is taking a focused approach in this distribution of aid, dedicating funds in specified, concentrated areas to maximise visibility and impact.

    Much of the money will be earmarked for short term food and medical aid. Resettlement of refugees will also take top priority, with these victims of the war receiving emergency medical aid. On a larger scale, entire communities will be targeted for improved water supply, self sufficiency programmes, and widespread immunisation initiatives.

    Guatemala has been the prime recipient of the European Union's aid for Central America since 1994. A donors' conference in January raised international pledges of $1.9bn, nearly $400m more than was requested.

    “Firm and lasting peace is dependent on a deep seated reconciliation of Guatemalan society,” said Mr Marin at the signing of the joint declaration. “The European Union's contribution will focus on supporting the state so that it can fulfil the undertakings of the peace process.”

    Unlike current health and relief efforts currently under way in Burundi, Afghanistan, and Zaire, where Red Cross workers were faced with the challenge of locating and then catching up with fleeing refugees, the situation in Guatemala is noticeably better.

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