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 not only cause considerable loss of life and misery but also destroy homes and livelihoods and constitute a brake on development.
The diverse geography of Central Asia which varies from mountain ranges to steppes, from deserts to large river systems, together with the impact of climate change, makes this region particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. The countries in this region regularly experience floods, landslides, mudflows, avalanches and droughts.
Earthquakes remain the predominant threat, as the region lies on numerous fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active in the world. 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. While much progress has been made in the last years, comprehensive disaster management still needs to be achieved.
The European Commission began its humanitarian operations in response to the civil war in Tajikistan in 1994, and continued its support over the years to address both the impact of outbreaks of violence in the region – such as assisting the people affected during inter-ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, and recurrent natural disasters - such as the food security crisis that hit southern Tajikistan in 2012 as a result of a particularly harsh winter.
Recently, small-scale support was provided on several occasions in response to natural disasters across the region: the avalanches and mudflows in Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region (GBAR) and Rasht Valley Tajikistan in July 2015; the earthquakes in Osh, Kyrgyzstan (October 2015) and in GBAR, Tajikistan (December 2015); and the floods in Rudaki and Penjikent districts of Sughd Region in Tajikistan in May 2016.
Since 2003, the European Commission has 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. The priority targets are those who live in areas highly vulnerable to natural hazards, such as the communities along the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain chains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
DIPECHO’s tenth action plan for Central Asia (2017-2018) encourages partners to demonstrate the replicability of previous and successful community-based disaster risk reduction models in order to share best practices. It will also not only promote the integration of disaster risk reduction measures into local and national development plans and budgets and but also encourage DRR to become one of the priorities of development partners.
Since 1994, the Commission has allocated a total of €228.6 million in humanitarian assistance to the Central Asia region.