The Latin America and Caribbean region – one of the world's most disaster-prone areas – is home to close to 650 million people.
Droughts, floods, hurricanes, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happen regularly, destroying infrastructure and causing significant loss of lives and livelihoods. Additionally, the El Niño phenomenon – an abnormal warming of the Pacific Ocean which wreaks havoc on global weather patterns – regularly causes catastrophic weather events. In 1997-98, the 'El Niño of the century' cost more than 24 000 lives around the globe, and destroyed an estimated €28 billion in economic assets, half of which were in Latin America.
Conflict and violence also plague several Latin American and Caribbean countries. Despite the ongoing peace negotiations, Colombia’s long-standing internal conflict keeps adding to the staggering official figure of 6.4 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) – the world’s second largest number after Syria.
Central America’s 'Northern Triangle' of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala accounts for the highest homicide rates in the world outside of war zones. Armed violence leads to the forced displacement of thousands of vulnerable families and children.
Sharp economic, political and geographical contrasts define the region. Although several Latin American and Caribbean nations rank as 'middle income' countries, others are mired in poverty, violence and weak governance.
Since 1994, the European Commission has provided over €1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on the populations most affected by natural disasters and violence and on preparing communities for future hazards.
The Commission has assisted during all major recent disasters, such as Haiti's devastating earthquake and Chile’s earthquakes and tsunami in 2010, the floods and landslides which affected over 1.2 million South Americans in 2012. In 2016, exceptional funds have been earmarked to address the catastrophic consequences of the El Niño phenomenon.