Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – the five republics of Central Asia – are particularly exposed to natural disasters such as landslides, avalanches, floods, earthquakes, droughts, and melting glaciers. These disasters cause considerable loss of life, destroy homes and livelihoods, and hinder long-term development.
The impact of climate change coupled with the diverse geography of Central Asia - which ranges from mountains to steppes, and from deserts to large river systems - make this region particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Most Central Asian countries regularly experience floods, landslides, mudflows, avalanches, and droughts.
The region lies on numerous fault lines which make it one of the most seismically active areas in the world; earthquakes are the leading threat. While the largest cities in Central Asia (with growing populations) are especially at risk, earthquakes can also trigger secondary events such as landslides and mudflows, which threaten almost two-thirds of the entire population of the region. In addition, Central Asian countries, particularly Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, suffer from pollution and radioactive waste hazards, which are part of the legacy of the environmentally unfriendly industrial practices of the Soviet era. Even if some countries are better equipped than others to cope with natural hazards, disaster risk reduction has become a priority for the whole region. Significant progress has been made in the last years; however, a comprehensive disaster management capacity still needs to be achieved.
Recently, small-scale support was provided in response to natural disasters across the region: the avalanches and mudflows in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAR) and Rasht Valley, Tajikistan (July 2015); the earthquakes in Osh, Kyrgyzstan (October 2015) and in GBAR, Tajikistan (December 2015); and the floods in Rudaki and Penjikent districts of the Sughd Region in Tajikistan (May 2016).
Since 2003, the European Commission has also increasingly expanded its disaster preparedness activities in the region under its flagship disaster risk reduction programme, known as DIPECHO. In total, over 110 projects have been funded, for a total of approximately €47 million. Priority targets are those who live in areas that are highly vulnerable to natural hazards, such as the communities along the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain chains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It has also assisted in the establishment and capacity building of a regional disaster rick reduction centre in Almaty Kazakhstan which intends to promote cooperation amongst the five Central Asian countries and with other regions.
DIPECHO’s tenth action plan for Central Asia (2017-2018) encourages partners to demonstrate the replicability of previous successful community-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) models in order to consolidate the gains already made. The programme will also promote the integration of disaster risk reduction measures into local and national development plans and budgets, while encouraging development partners to adopt DRR as one of their priorities.
The European Commission began its humanitarian operations in the region as a response to the civil war in Tajikistan in 1994. Throughout the following years, EU humanitarian aid has supported victims of violence (such as the inter-ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in 2010) and recurrent natural disasters (for instance, the food security crisis that hit southern Tajikistan in 2012 as a result of a particularly harsh winter).
Since 1994, the European Commission has allocated a total of €228.6 million in humanitarian assistance to Central Asia.