What are the needs?
Central America and Mexico are located in one of the most disaster prone regions in the world in terms of hazard recurrence and severity, particularly exposed to floods, hurricanes, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Droughts are also frequent and cause significant losses of crops, livestock and forestry, having a direct impact on the livelihoods and food security of whole populations.
Natural hazards coexist with organized crime and a background of deep inequalities and widespread poverty that make Central America one of the most violent regions of the world. Despite housing only 2% of the world's population, 18% of homicides worldwide occur in this region. Honduras remains the most violent country in the world in terms of intentional homicide with a rate of 90.4 homicides per 100 000 people. Moreover, El Salvador and Guatemala have higher homicide rates now than during their civil wars in the 1980’s. Data from UNODC and ACAPS show that the homicidal violence in the Northern Triangle results in considerably more civilian casualties than in countries with ongoing armed conflicts, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. Access to basic services is constantly hindered by armed groups.
The fast population growth and rapid urbanisation also increase the poorest communities’ vulnerability in the face of disasters.
How are we helping?
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has been present in the region since 1994. In these two decades it has provided close to €200 million in humanitarian aid to Central America and Mexico.
In 2014, the EU has allocated over €1 million in response to the food insecurity situation which has affected Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as the earthquakes which shook Nicaragua and Guatemala. Food, safe water, non-food items, health care, as well as temporary shelter and psychosocial support have been part of ECHO’s response.
For 2013, the EU released €4.3 million to meet the most pressing needs of people affected by different humanitarian situations in the region. Of this, €300 000 was granted to assist some 2 000 families affected by the coffee-rust plague in Guatemala. In addition, the EU also allocated €500 000 to assist the population affected by the worst dengue epidemic since 2008 in Honduras and Mexico. Funding was used to support 114 000 persons and to strengthen local health services with equipment and training in areas of difficult or null access by the authorities.
The EU also invested €2 million to respond to the humanitarian consequences of collective violence in the region.
Increasing the resilience of populations at risk
Numerous lives can be saved through risk reduction and disaster preparedness measures. ECHO's 2014-2015 Disaster Preparedness program (DIPECHO) has granted €10.7 million to partner organisations to carry out disaster preparedness activities. DIPECHO promotes simple and inexpensive preparatory measures which enable communities to save lives and livelihoods in disasters. These include early warning systems, the mapping of risks, education and awareness campaigns and small infrastructure works to reduce risks, to name a few. These projects also support the local, national and regional disaster prevention and response institutions to increase their capacity to face emergencies.
Finally, the EU also granted in 2013 a total of €1.5 million to the drought resilience initiative, which targets communities exposed to frequent droughts in the so called Dry Corridor (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala).