What are the needs?
Central America is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, particularly exposed to frequent floods, hurricanes, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Severe droughts are also recurrent, causing significant loss of crops, livestock and forestry, wiping out livelihoods and threatening the food security of populations.
In 2015, exceptionally low rainfall combined with a prolonged dry spell led to between 80% to 100% of crops failing in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Current estimates by the U.N. World Food Program show that 2.5 million people are food insecure in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, due to the cumulated impacts of the persisting drought and the coffee rust plague devastating farmers’ livelihoods.
Central America and Mexico are also affected by extreme levels of pervasive violence by armed groups which target the population, leading to death rates similar to open conflicts. The violence leads to the forced displacement of tens of thousands, the recruitment of children by armed groups, the confinement of populations severely impeding access to basic services, causing mass migration and shrinking humanitarian access in many areas.
In 2015, according to available data, El Salvador had the highest homicide rate in the world (103 murders per 100 000 people) outside a warzone. 289 000 people were internally displaced due to criminal violence. In Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, at least 714 500 people have been forcibly displaced by organized crime and gang violence. An additional 106 000 are refugees - of which a meagre 24% have received limited assistance.
The combination of exposure to natural hazards, high levels of poverty and extreme violence are eroding the coping capacities of local populations and institutions. As climate change and booming urbanization leave increasing numbers of people exposed to disasters, making communities and national systems more resilient while reducing their dependence on humanitarian assistance is a priority.
How are we helping?
Since 1994, the European Commission has allocated €212.8 million in humanitarian aid to Central America and Mexico. About two thirds (€136.2 million) have been used to respond to emergencies: floods, droughts, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, internal displacements and the humanitarian consequences of organised violence. The remaining €76.6 million have been invested in preparing vulnerable communities and their institutions to face natural hazards and disasters.
In 2016, the European Commission released €3 million to support the populations most affected by the drought in Guatemala and Honduras; €300 000 to increase knowledge and awareness of the internal displacement crisis in El Salvador, and to strengthen the capacity of state authorities and civil society to provide protection to displaced people; €1.9 million to provide protection, access to education and safe learning environments for children affected by the violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The 2016-2017 Disaster Preparedness Programme, DIPECHO, also granted €8.3 million to promote preventive, life-saving initiatives in case of disasters, supporting the local, regional and national disaster prevention and response institutions to increase their capacity to face emergencies, benefiting 500 000 people in Central America.