South America is one of the regions in the world most exposed to disasters linked to natural hazards such as landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis. Floods and droughts are recurrent on the region and cause severe losses.
When a disaster happens, the main needs of the affected population are temporary shelter, food, clean water, primary health care, household items or clothes. All these are part of the assistance delivered by ECHO through its partners in the field. Also key is the assistance aimed at helping affected populations recover from agricultural or livestock losses, which have an enormous impact in their livelihoods.
Since 1994 ECHO has provided more than €177.5 million in humanitarian aid to South America, excluding the funds allocated to Colombia due to the armed conflict.
Responding to disasters
The rainy season of 2012 caused severe floods and landslides in five countries, affecting more than 1.2 million people. These events underlined the vulnerability of populations living in remote areas with limited access to public services, especially indigenous groups. The European Commission allocated €5.6 million to fund humanitarian operations in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Colombia and Brazil. Aid consisted of safe water, food and relief items. Actions to recover livelihoods, to prevent or respond to epidemic outbreaks and to carry out small rehabilitation work on vital infrastructure were also part of the response. ECHO also gave assistance to those affected by a severe hailstorm in Paraguay.
In 2011, hydro-meteorological phenomena as well as epidemics also hit the region. ECHO allocated a total amount of €3.5 million to assist the population affected by the worst flooding in the last 18 years that hit the Peruvian department of Ucayali, and those affected by a dengue outbreak in Loreto department. In Bolivia, communities whose livelihood depended on subsistence farming were affected by floods. Others were affected by a cold wave and a dengue outbreak. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay were respectively affected by a volcanic eruption, heavy rainfall, hailstorm and a cold wave. All of them benefitted from ECHO support.
In 2010 an 8.8 degree earthquake followed by a tsunami caused widespread damage in Chile. 500 people were reported dead and 370.000 houses were damaged or destroyed. ECHO reacted swiftly with a €3 million of emergency funding for temporary shelter, mobile hospitals and telecommunications. In the aftermath of the earthquake, ECHO stepped up its disaster preparedness activities in Chile.
Preparing communities for future disasters
Besides helping in emergencies, ECHO works to empower communities and local disaster response teams to be better prepared to face natural hazards, and take measures that allow them to stop a hazard from becoming a disaster. This is mainly done through the Disaster Preparedness Program (DIPECHO). DIPECHO works first by identifying the risks, and then taking simple and inexpensive measures to minimize them, hence reducing the impact of natural phenomena. The local capacities to respond to an emergency are strengthened, small infrastructure works to prevent damages are carried out and awareness-raising campaigns are done with the population. It’s about increasing the resilience of the most vulnerable communities. Preparedness saves lives. And for each dollar invested in preparedness, between 5 and 7 are saved in emergency response once the disaster has happened.
ECHO has invested €66.9 million, more than one third of all funds allocated in South America, to disaster preparedness activities across the region. The 2011-2012 programme targeted communities in 9 countries - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela,- with an allocation of €12 million. An additional €3 million was channelled to strengthen the resilience and capacities of communities exposed to frequent droughts in the Bolivian and Paraguayan region of the Chaco. In the next plan 2013-2014, ECHO will invest €14.5 million for disaster preparedness projects and drought resilience activities.