What are the needs?
South America is highly exposed to disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, landslides, droughts and cold waves. The Andean region is also increasingly affected by “glacial lake outburst floods” (flash floods due to a glacier’s lake bursting its dam) because of climate change.
On 16 April 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, killing 652, and devastating the homes and livelihoods of an estimated 2 000 000 people. Natural hazards similarly affect thousands every year - particularly the most vulnerable populations living in poverty, in remote areas with limited access to basic services, such as indigenous peoples.
When disasters strike, the immediate needs of the affected population include shelters, food, clean water, primary health care, basic household items, and early support for livelihood recovery.
Colombia’s on-going conflict has generated an estimated 6.9 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) according to government figures for 1985-2015 - the world’s largest caseload. In 2015 and 2016 alone, 345 271 new IDPs were registered, forced to flee their homes because of the ongoing violence.
Additionally, 360 000 Colombian refugees are in need of international protection in neighbouring Ecuador and Venezuela (according to UNHCR figures for 2016). Besides basic needs, refugees and IDPs often require psychological support and legal protection.
How are we helping?
Since 1994, the European Commission has provided over €407 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 European Commission's humanitarian interventions in South America focus on responding to emergencies, preparing communities for future disasters and addressing the humanitarian needs caused by the Colombian conflict.
In 2016, the Commission assisted people in the region during all major disasters, such as Ecuador’s deadly (7.8 magnitude) earthquake - which caused over 650 fatalities and injured 17 000, or Paraguay’s floods which displaced 100,000 people.
The Commission also builds up vulnerable communities and disaster responders’ ability to prepare for, and address natural hazards. The Commission promotes simple and inexpensive measures to mitigate disaster risks through DIPECHO, the Disaster Preparedness Programme. Measures include early warning systems, protecting livelihoods, strengthening emergency response capacities and identifying evacuation routes and safe shelters in the event of a disaster.
DIPECHO projects proved crucial when extreme rains caused floods and landslides in several countries in 2012, affecting more than 1.2 million people; or before the powerful earthquake (8.8 magnitude) and tsunami in Chile in 2010, which killed 500 people and damaged 370 000 homes. The support provided to affected countries includes funding response operations, through humanitarian partners and the provision of direct emergency items or technical support through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
In addition, the EU has assisted with small-scale disasters, which may affect a relatively limited number of people but have a devastating impact on their lives and livelihoods. Such disasters often occur in remote or isolated areas, rarely trigger a declaration of emergency and may remain underreported despite the severe humanitarian needs they create locally.
Assistance for Colombia has focused on displaced populations with limited access to basic goods and services, as well as on Colombian refugees in neighbouring countries.