(REUTER) Brussels, Feb 23 - The mount of humanitarian aid handed out by the European Union has increased sevenfold since 1990 as the number of man-made disasters around the world has proliferated, the EU's development chief said on Thursday.
"It's proof that man-made crises have exploded in the past four years," the Italian Commissioner Emma Bonino told in a news conference, stressing money was not a substitute for political action.
She said the Union - the world's biggest donor of humanitarian aid - had given out 760 million Ecus ($912 million) to a total of 63 countries in the second year of activity of ECHO, its humanitarian aid office.
She said 42 per cent of the aid went to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the lion's share going to civil war-sticken Rwanda and Burundi. Pointing to the break-up of the former "Iron Curtain" countries as a starting point for many of the man-made disasters she said the republics of the former Yugoslavia received 35.3 per cent and the former Soviet republics 11.9 per cent of the funds. She said a new opinion poll conducted for the Commission showed that most people though the EU should get more involved in humanitarian aid through direct action if possible.
ECHO channels 85 per cent of the aid through non-government organisations and specialist agencies.
"The data...reassure us because the statistics show that people are ready to extend a helping hand to victims of disasters, whether natural or otherwise", Bonino said in a statement.
But she said very few people had heard of ECHO and EU taxpayers risked becoming less generous unless they were better informed of how the EU spent their money.