In terms of the recurrence, severity and scope of natural hazards, Central America is the second most vulnerable region in the world. In addition to floods, cyclones and landslides, due its location in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, it is also highly prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Droughts are also frequent and cause significant losses of crops, livestock and forestry, having a direct impact on the livelihoods of whole populations.
ECHO has been present in the region since 1994. In these two decades it has provided more than €172 million in humanitarian aid to Central America.
Responding to disasters
In 2012, the European Commission allocated €350.000 to Guatemala in response to the damage caused by an earthquake (7.2 on the Richter scale) which struck the western part of the country. Funds benefitted more than 10.000 people in San Marcos and Quetzaltenango departments and were used to provide relief items such as blankets, hygiene articles, cooking utensils, food aid, emergency health care, water and sanitation. ECHO also supported people affected by a dengue outbreak in El Salvador, floods in Costa Rica and Panama, an earthquake in Costa Rica and a fire in Honduras.
In 2011, ECHO allocated €4 million to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to assist the population affected by Tropical Depression 12-E that caused human losses, displacement, and damage to infrastructure and livelihoods in the region.
Increasing the resilience of populations at risk
Numerous lives can be saved through the reduction of risks and disaster preparedness measures. ECHO's 2012-2013 Disaster Preparedness program (DIPECHO) grants €10 million to 20 partner organisations to carry out disaster preparedness activities that benefit 500,000 people in the region. DIPECHO promotes simple and inexpensive preparatory measures which enable communities to save lives and livelihoods during the worst hours of an emergency. These include, among others, early warning systems, the mapping of risks, education and awareness campaigns and small infrastructure works to reduce risks. Through training these projects also support the local, national and regional disaster prevention and response institutions to increase their capacity to face emergencies.
Additionally, €2 million were provided in 2011-2012 to strengthen the capacities of communities exposed to frequent droughts in the so called Dry Corridor (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala), by securing their livelihoods and their access to water.