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Begum Aga Khan Meets Foreign Minister Martins Da Cruz

Lisbon, Portugal, 5 June 2002 — Her Highness Begum Inaara Aga Khan, Honorary President of Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an international emergency relief agency yesterday evening met with Portugal’s Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz.

Begum Inaara Aga Khan briefed the Foreign Minister on the implementation by FOCUS of the 700,000€ (Euros) grant made by the Portuguese Institute of Co-operation last October to enable displaced persons in Afghanistan survive the past harsh winter. She also discussed the potential for collaboration on the transition to long-term development activities in Angola, a country where the Aga Khan Development Network’s experience of post-conflict rehabilitation and development could be useful.

Expressing gratitude on behalf of the beneficiary populations in Afghanistan, the Begum Aga Khan said “Portugal’s support came at a crucial time. Without it the situation would have been much, much worse for the 70,000 people helped.” Describing both the progress of the rehabilitation work and the challenges ahead, she said “we are expanding agricultural programmes and in some areas, improving food security, and also beginning to tackle problems of waterborne diseases through our water and sanitation programmes.” “The situation, however, remains fragile,” she noted. “Risks to health and livelihood remain and certain geographic areas of great need are receiving less donor attention.”

“I was particularly interested to talk to the Begum Aga Khan about new areas of mutual interest in addition to reviewing our past collaboration in Mozambique and with FOCUS in Afghanistan,” said Foreign Minister Martins da Cruz. “I look forward to the continuity of our collaboration in countries such as Angola.”

FOCUS has collaborated with the Government of Portugal in humanitarian initiatives in Ourique, Portugal, the Azores, Mozambique, East Timor and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, where FOCUS has, during 2001, provided food and other assistance to over 450,000 people, it has also initiated rehabilitation, construction and agricultural activities. As an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network, FOCUS hopes to enable as swift a transition as is possible into long-term development initiatives of the type that the Network has already successfully implemented in similar high-mountain environments in Tajikistan and Northern Pakistan. In March this year, His Highness the Aga Khan and Chairman Hamid Karzai signed an Agreement of Co-operation for Development which provides the framework for an extensive long-term development programme encompassing food security, healthcare, education, urban redevelopment and cultural restoration following a US$75 million pledge by the Aga Khan towards reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Focus Humanitarian Assistance is an international emergency response agency that provides relief and support services during and following natural and man-made disasters, primarily in Asia and Africa. FOCUS helps people in need reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid as it facilitates their transition to sustainable self-reliance. FOCUS is affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve opportunities and living conditions, for people of all faiths and origins, in specific regions of the developing world.

For further information, please contact:
The Information Department
60270 Gouvieux, France

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