The German government, through the federal foreign office’s humanitarian emergency aid programme, is providing 50,000 euros to UNICEF for earthquake relief operations in Bhutan. The funds will be used for procurement and distribution of relief material for people affected by the earthquake that hit eastern Bhutan on 21 September 2009.
Many of the affected families, in particular children, still show signs of fear and trauma. A sizeable portion of those affected continues to live in temporary shelters. The onset of cold winter conditions makes the vulnerable population susceptible to diseases and other health hazards. Several schools and health centres damaged due to the earthquake are still operating from makeshift shelters.
With the 50,000 euro funding from the German government, UNICEF will procure and distribute emergency family kits to prepare cooked food and boiled water, tarpaulins for use as temporary shelters and classrooms, blankets and a tent for the Jomtshang community primary school in Trashigang.
Though the relations between Germany and Bhutan are not formalised, regular bilateral contacts are maintained through the German embassy in New Delhi. In June 2008 and again in October 2009, a delegation from the said embassy visited Bhutan and held talks with parliamentarians, among others, on the new political order.
Over the last few years, Germany has also supported several cultural preservation projects in Bhutan, the most recent being the reconstruction of a cantilever bridge at the historic dzong in Punakha, which was officially opened by Bhutan’s Prime Minister on 10 May 2008. The newly established Trongsa Penlop Library, a public library in the Thimphu valley, received a donation of books from the German embassy in 2008.
In 2009, the German embassy provided 8,000 euros for procuring and distributing rice and maize grinding machines in eight remote mountain villages. The royal Bhutan police cooperate very successfully with German police on an ongoing basis.
Support is provided for postgraduate courses with relevance to developing countries, during which young executives from Bhutan’s administrative sector and non-governmental organisations receive practice-oriented training in Germany. Each year, three or four Bhutanese applicants are awarded scholarships, enabling them to study for two years and obtain a Master’s degree. Also, every year Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle invites journalists from Bhutan to Germany for conferences and workshops.
Beyond bilateral cooperation, Germany also makes a financial contribution to measures by international organisations active in Bhutan, such as the World bank, the Asian development bank, the European Union and the international centre for integrated mountain development (ICIMOD).
Worldwide, the German government funds appropriate relief projects run by UN humanitarian organisations, German NGOs and organisations of the Red Cross/Crescent movement. The federal foreign office is the lead ministry for this task. Germany’s key principle here is that humanitarian aid must be geared to the requirements of the emergency and nothing else. The German government is committed here to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
The federal foreign office funds humanitarian emergency aid, especially help for refugees and internally displaced persons. It also promotes disaster reduction measures, which can help minimise the impact of natural disasters, alleviate human suffering and reduce material damage. In 2009 the federal foreign office has spent 123 million euro around the world to deal with humanitarian crises.(kuenselonline dot com)