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. Overall, more than 20 Million people were affected by natural hazards from 1980-2013.
Windstorms, hurricanes and floods have been predominant over the past decades, representing the main cause for loss of lives. The Caribbean is also prone to earthquakes, generating the most significant economic losses; and eruptions of the region's over 30 active volcanoes. Furthermore, the Caribbean suffers from deforestation and consequences of El Niño phenomenon, such as droughts, which 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.
How are we helping?
Actions of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) in the Caribbean focus at 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 happen and to better prepare communities for any future natural disasters.
Responding to natural disasters
The EU allocated €11.7 million in response to extensive damages caused by Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean in October 2012. Funding in Haiti (€6 million), Cuba (€4 million), Dominican Republic
(€1.2 million), and Jamaica (€0.5 million) 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.
Before Sandy, other two hurricanes had hit the region, Isaac and Ernesto (August). The EU supported the population affected by Isaac in Dominican Republic and by Ernesto in Belize with funds to restore livelihoods and the production capacity of affected small farmers and to support the distribution of safe water and essential relief items (hygiene items, jerrycans and blankets).
The EU has also helped people affected by the cholera outbreak in the Dominican Republic that caused more than 467 deaths out of 31 471 suspected cases (as of December 2013). 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 sanitation, clean water access and hygiene promotion as well as to improve hospital capacities and establish oral rehydration units at 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, among others. 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. Funded projects will promote early warning systems, prepare communities to face tsunamis and hurricanes, and strengthen health, shelters and school facilities to withstand natural hazards.
Facts & Figures
The ECHO office for the Caribbean covers 24 countries and overseas territories (OT) in the region.
The countries include Antigua-and-Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint-Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago. The overseas territories are Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks & Caicos Islands (all of them British OT); Aruba, Curacao and St. Marteen (countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands),and Saint Barthelemy (French OT).