Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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South America

In 2014, Paraguay´s main rivers overflowed due to heavy rainfall, causing havoc across the country. Photo credit: COOPI

What are the needs?

South America is highly exposed to natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, landslides, droughts and cold waves. As South America is significantly affected by climate change, the Andean region is also exposed to GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Floods). These phenomena affect thousands of people, particularly the most vulnerable populations living in poverty, as well as people in remote areas such as indigenous groups, who have limited access to basic services. When disaster strikes, the main needs of the affected population are temporary shelter, food, clean water, primary health care, household items and clothes.

How are we helping?

Since 1994, the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has provided €183 million in humanitarian aid to South America. In addition, as regards the humanitarian consequences of the armed conflict in Colombia, the EU has allocated approximately €194.1 million in the period 1994 to 2015, to assist people affected, focusing in particular on displaced population, and those affected by restrictions on mobility and without access to basic goods and services as well as Colombian refugees in neighbouring countries.

Emergency response

From 2013 to 2015, ECHO assisted more than 50,000 people affected by different disasters in the region. In Argentina, approximately 420,000 people suffered massive floods in several provinces. In Peru, more than a million people had to face floods, and an additional 200,000 people were affected by extreme cold weather (causing more than 20,000 cases of pneumonia among children under five). Bolivia and Paraguay also had floods – 95,900 Bolivian families and 64,000 hectares were affected, and Paraguay reported more than 80,000 families. In 2014, more than 1,000 hectares were devastated as a result of wildfires in in Chile, and the Cerro Negro and Chiles volcanoes erupted in Ecuador.

A total of €4.2 million was allocated by ECHO to provide shelter, safe water, sanitation, health support and livelihood recovery to those most in need.

The EU has assisted the region with all major disasters, such as the intense rains that caused floods and landslides in several countries in 2012, affecting more than 1.2 million people; 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; drought in Paraguay and Bolivia.  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 the lives and livelihoods of those populations.  These disasters are often somewhat hidden, often occurring in remote or isolated areas and rarely triggering a declaration of emergency and usually do not figure prominently in the news despite the serious humanitarian needs they create locally.

Preparing communities for future disasters

ECHO also builds up vulnerable communities and disaster responders’ ability to prepare for, face and address natural hazards. ECHO’s Disaster Preparedness programme (DIPECHO) first identifies the main risks, and then implements simple and inexpensive measures to mitigate those risks, in order to reduce their impact. Such measures include early warning systems, protecting livelihoods and strengthening emergency response capacities, identifying evacuation routes and safe places in the event of a disaster.

The EU has invested €80 million in disaster preparedness activities across South America for the period 1995-2015.

The 2015-2016 DIPECHO programme focuses on six countries - Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela - with €13.5 million for disaster preparedness projects or operations, so as to improve people’s resilience against disasters.

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