Central American countries and Mexico are highly exposed to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and other natural hazards. Every year, 1.7 million Central Americans require emergency aid.
The European Commission has regularly provided assistance before and after disasters strike. It is also one of the few donors addressing the severe humanitarian consequences of the violence in Mexico and Central America’s “northern triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras, and Salvador, which particularly affects children and women. The Commission also assists vulnerable people in the Central American “dry corridor”, who suffer recurrent droughts and food insecurity.
Central American populations and institutions are weakened by disasters combined with poverty and extreme levels of violence. This vulnerability leads to recurrent humanitarian emergencies. The most pressing needs usually include temporary shelter, food, safe water and proper sanitation, primary health care, protection, basic relief items, hygiene promotion (so as to prevent waterborne diseases), infrastructure repairs and the recovery of livelihoods. Given the high levels of vulnerability, empowering communities and local institutions to prepare for, and respond to natural hazards optimises resources.
Central America also bears the humanitarian consequences of organised violence, a silent emergency forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the “northern triangle” of Central America (NTCA) countries of Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras. The violence has led to death rates similar to war, causing displacement, lack of access to basic services, the recruitment of children and the confinement of populations by armed groups. 120 952 homicides were recorded in the northern triangle of Central America between 2010 and 2017. As of June 2017, there are 240 142 refugees and asylum-seekers from NTCA.
The Commission addresses disasters before they even hit, funding disaster prevention projects and initiatives throughout the region. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is integrated in all projects, and the disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO) focuses on strengthening local communities and institutions, enabling them to identify risks and mitigation measures before natural hazards affect them. This includes the development and implementation of national and local policies, setting up early warning systems, or training communities to evacuate civilians or provide emergency health care to victims.
The Commission assists populations after every major disaster. In Mexico, following the 2017 earthquakes which claimed over 450 lives and affected 7 million children, the Commission released €158 000 for education programmes and €400 000 to protect affected children and their families. When tropical storm Nate hit the region in October 2017, the Commission allocated €583 000 in order to deliver essential relief items and provide access to water and sanitation in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Emergency assistance was also delivered to Costa Rica to help the most vulnerable recover their livelihoods and earn a living. In June 2018, €400 000 helped provide health care and shelters to victims of the Volcan de Fuego eruption in Guatemala.
Between 2016 and 2017, through its Education in Emergency programme, the Commission allocated €1.8 million to provide education, protection, and health care - including psychological support – to children and their families in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. In 2018, €2.5 million in assistance will address urgent humanitarian needs related to organised violence, funding protection projects throughout the region.
Since 1994, the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) have allocated €223 million in humanitarian aid to Central America and Mexico. About two thirds (€148 million) helped respond to emergencies such as floods, droughts, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, internal displacements and the humanitarian consequences of organised violence. The remaining third (€74.6 million) has been invested in preparing vulnerable communities and their institutions to face future disasters.