What are the needs?
South America is highly exposed to natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, landslides, droughts and cold waves. The Andean region is also exposed to 'glacial lake outburst floods' because of climate change. These natural phenomena affect thousands of people, particularly the most vulnerable populations living in poverty, as well as those living in remote areas such as indigenous groups, who have limited access to basic services.
When natural disasters strike, the main needs of the affected population are shelter, food, clean water, primary health care, basic household items and clothes.
In addition to these hazards, the on-going conflict in Colombia has generated an accumulated total of 6.9 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs), the world’s second largest number after Syria (according to government figures for 1985-2015). Every year, up to 200 000 additional people are forced to leave their homes.
In addition to the internally displaced, 340 000 Colombian refugees are in need of international protection in Ecuador and Venezuela (UNHCR 2014 figures). Besides basic needs, refugees and IDPs often need also psychological support and legal protection.
How are we helping?
The European Commission's humanitarian interventions in South America focus on providing response to emergencies, preparing communities for future disasters and addressing the humanitarian needs caused by the Colombian conflict.
Since 1994, the European Commission has provided over €400 million in humanitarian aid to South America, of which €202.7 million have been dedicated to alleviate suffering caused by the armed conflict in Colombia.
The Commission has assisted people in the region during all major disasters, such as the deadly earthquake (7.8 magnitude) of 16 April 2016 in Ecuador which left over 650 casualties and 17 000 injured; the intense rains that caused floods and landslides in several countries in 2012, affecting more than 1.2 million people; and the powerful earthquake (8.8 magnitude) in Chile in 2010 followed by a tsunami which killed 500 people and damaged or destroyed 370 000 houses.
In addition, the EU has assisted in small-scale disaster events, which may affect a relatively limited number of people, but have a serious negative impact on their lives and livelihoods. These disasters, which often occur in remote or isolated areas and rarely trigger a declaration of emergency, usually do not figure prominently in the news despite the serious humanitarian needs they create locally.
The Commission also builds up vulnerable communities and disaster responders’ ability to prepare for, face and address natural hazards. DIPECHO, the Disaster Preparedness Programme of the Commission promotes simple and inexpensive measures to mitigate disasters' risks to reduce their impact. Measures include early warning systems, protecting livelihoods, strengthening emergency response capacities and identifying evacuation routes and safe places in the event of a disaster.
Assistance for Colombia has focused on displaced populations having no access to basic goods and services, as well as on Colombian refugees in neighbouring countries.