The European Union (EU) Delegation to Liberia has disclosed its transition from providing humanitarian aid to development cooperation. 

EU Ambassador and Head of delegation to Liberia, Attilio Pacifici, and Operations Director for East, West and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean of the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection directorate, or ECHO, Cees Wittebrood made the disclosure on Thursday, at the a press conference held at the EU Headquarters in Mamba Point, Monrovia.

By transition, Amb. Pacifici and Mr. Wittebrood said the ECHO is closing its office in Liberia to give way to other forms of development cooperation.

“The transition from relief to development aid has been accelerated as of 2008 with a phasing out of humanitarian aid and a phasing in of development cooperation under the European Development Fund (EDF) and other EU funding mechanisms,” the EU diplomats indicated.

Operations Director Wittebrood said the Union’s transition is guaranteed by the celebration of ten years of peace in the country.

Wittebrood recalled how the EU’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) began funding emergency programs to help Liberians affected by conflict as well as refugees as early as 1990.

He added that the EU had continued to provide support in the aftermath of war to restore basic services such as health and nutrition care, water and sanitation services, and to improve food security. This, humanitarian aid, according to him, totaled more than one and eighty million Euros (€180 million), about two hundred and forty million United States dollars (US$240 million), in support over the past 20 years.

“The EU stood by the people of Liberia through some of the country’s most difficult times in recent history. ECHO funded numerous partners who provided life-saving assistance and contributed significantly to rebuilding the health care system,” Wittebrood maintained.

However, he stressed the need for more to be done in Liberia, naming the reduction of high number of preventable deaths, linked to childbirth, as one of the major challenges.

Despite the closure ECHO’s office in the country, Wittebrood assured that the EU’s Aid Department will continue to fund a cross border program on either side of the Liberian-Ivorian border aimed at improving social cohesion and food security for Ivorian refugees, returnees as well as the local population.

For his part, Amb. Pacifici said: “Now that the country [Liberia] is stable and has adopted a long-term vision for poverty reduction, it is indeed time for development donors to step in and contribute to fully restoring social services to Liberians which is also vital to prevent conflict in future.”

He said the EU is a long-term partner of Liberia, “and as of 2014, we will continue to accompany Liberia in its efforts to improve secondary education and vocational training, state building and to address gaps in the energy sector.”

The European Envoy recalled that, from 2008 to 2011, the European Commission and EU member states made available more than €1.37 billion (about US$1.8 billion) in development assistance and debt relief to Liberia.

He noted the EC assistance to Liberia is now financed through the European Development Fund (EDF), revealing that the 11th EDF runs from 2014 to 2020 and focuses its assistance to Liberia on the priority sectors of state building, education and energy.