What are the needs?
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 of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, as there are more than 30 active volcanoes in the region. More than 20 million people were affected by natural hazards from 1980 to 2013. High population density and growth, inequality and extreme poverty undermine the capacities of vulnerable communities to cope with disasters.
How are we helping?
The Caribbean office of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) covers 24 countries and overseas territories. Actions focus on reducing the impact of future disasters by preparing populations in the areas most affected by natural hazards. Since 1994, the EU has provided around €147 million in humanitarian aid to the region (excluding the response to the Haiti earthquake) to deal with disasters when they occur and to better prepare communities for future extreme natural phenomena.
Responding to disasters
In 2014, the EU has helped bring relief to the victims of the 2013 Christmas floods in Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. €300 000 was granted to distribute food and relief items, to carry out actions aimed at improving access to water and sanitation, to promote hygiene to minimise the risk of diseases, and to restore health services.
The EU allocated €11.7 million in response to extensive damages caused by Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean in 2012. Funding in Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica were used to provide shelter and safe water, support activities to reduce water-related diseases (dengue fever, cholera and leptospirosis) and help the most affected people to regain their livelihoods.
The EU has also helped people affected by the cholera outbreak in the Dominican Republic which has caused more than 471 deaths out of 31 646 suspected cases (as of July 2014). The funding has contributed to the control of the disease since 2010, supporting actions in communities with a total contribution of €1.2 million, helping over 200 000 people. EU funding has been used to improve clean water access, sanitation and hygiene promotion as well as to improve hospital capacities and establish oral rehydration units at the community level.
Preparing communities for future disasters
The European Commission Disaster Preparedness programme (DIPECHO) 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, to name a few. The programme shows that simple and relatively cheap preparedness measures are an efficient way of limiting damage and saving lives. The DIPECHO programme for 2013-2014 has granted €8.5 million for disaster preparedness activities in the region.