In the Caribbean, most humanitarian emergencies are caused by frequent natural hazards, such as hurricanes, floods, flash floods, landslides and mudslides. Some islands are also at risk from earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.
Windstorms, hurricanes and floods have been predominant over the last years and represent 88% of all human lives lost to natural disasters from 1990 to 2010. The Caribbean is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions: earthquakes generate the most significant economic losses and there are more than 30 active volcanoes in the region. Furthermore, the Caribbean also suffers from deforestation and consequences of El Niño phenomenon: droughts have affected 4 million people in the past twenty years.
High population density and growth, inequality and great poverty undermine the capacities of vulnerable communities to cope with disasters. Our action in the Caribbean is to reduce the impact of future disasters by preparing populations in the areas most affected by natural hazards.
Since 1995, the European Commission has provided around €140 million in humanitarian aid to the region (not counting the response to the Haiti earthquake) to deal with disasters when they happen and to better prepare communities for any future natural disasters.
Responding to natural disasters
In 2012, the European Commission allocated €2 million to Cuba in response to extensive damages caused by Hurricane Sandy in the eastern provinces. Hurricane Sandy is considered the most devastating hurricane in 50 years, affecting approximately 3 million people. The European Commission's funding will address the immediate challenges such as re-roofing, rehabilitation of houses, schools and hospitals, food distribution and production.
In 2011, ECHO increased its funding to €820.000 in response to the cholera situation in the Dominican Republic, benefiting more than 200,000 people. The Commission's funding is used to improve sanitation, clean water access and hygiene promotion as well as to improve hospital capacities and establish oral rehydration units at community level.
In 2011 ECHO has provided support for the emergency response to Hurricane Irene (Bahamas) and Tropical Storm Ophelia (Dominica) and for the victims of the floods in the Dominican Republic (Enriquillo Lake).
ECHO also provided €1.2 million for the basic needs of the population affected in October 2010 by Hurricane Tomas in Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
After the earthquake of Haiti, support to people in need of protection and hosting communities in the Dominican Republic has been provided to UNHCR with an ECHO contribution of €600,000.
Preparing communities for future disasters
The European Commission is supporting the DIPECHO (Disaster Preparedness ECHO) programme which works with the most at-risk communities to improve their disaster preparedness, through the elaboration of risk maps, emergency plans, early warning systems, training and awareness activities, among others. The programme shows that simple and relatively cheap preparedness measures are an efficient way of limiting damage and saving lives.
The 2011-2012 Action Plan is funding 11 projects (3 regional projects, 3 projects in the Dominican Republic, 1 in Jamaica and 4 in Haiti). A total of €8 million is being used to prepare the most vulnerable communities to face disasters and more than 145,000 people are benefiting directly from these actions in the Caribbean (except Haiti).
Facts & Figures
The ECHO office for the Caribbean covers 23 countries and overseas territories (OT): Anguilla (OT), Antigua-and-Barbuda, Aruba (OT), the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin islands (OT), the Cayman islands (OT), Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat (OT), Curacao (OT), St Marteen (OT), Saint Kitts et Nevis, Sainte-Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos (OT)