Located in the “hurricane belt” and surrounded by several tectonic plates, the Caribbean region is regularly battered by disasters. Along with annual hurricanes, the Caribbean is also prone to droughts, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods, landslides, mudslides, earthquakes, and recurrent epidemics.
In 2020, the coronavirus restrictions had a dramatic economic impact on large segments of the population, straining the coping capacities of the most vulnerable.
Despite the strengthening of disaster management systems, gaps persist in preparedness and response capacities, protection, and inclusion of vulnerable groups. Migrations and forced displacements, mostly triggered by crises in Venezuela and Haiti, exacerbate protection challenges.
High coastal population density, fast demographic and urbanisation growth, high inequality and poverty rates, and lack of resources all contribute to worsening the region’s vulnerability.
During the ongoing 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, one of the most active on record, several hurricanes had a significant impact on livelihood and infrastructures, particularly in Cuba, Jamaica and Belize.
The coronavirus pandemic lockdowns have decimated the economies of the Caribbean Small Island Developing States, causing widespread loss of income and livelihood disruptions. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that up to 10 million people could be food insecure. Movement restrictions, business closures and lack of status regularisation hindered access to livelihood and government support for the 195,800 Venezuelans displaced in the Caribbean as well as for Haitian migrants. Lockdown measures also worsened domestic and gender-based violence, increasing the need for psychosocial support for women and children (WHO).
Since 1994, the European Union has provided €183 million in humanitarian aid to the Caribbean (excluding Haiti). This funding includes €50.8 million for disaster risk reduction and community resilience.
In 2020, the EU has allocated €2 million for disaster preparedness and €500,000 for education in emergencies.
Since the pandemic started, the EU has redirected more than €600,000 of ongoing humanitarian operations to the coronavirus response. These include technical assistance to local institutions, public awareness campaigns, distribution of protective equipment and hygiene items, training and psychosocial support to first responders as well as direct cash transfer and support to national social protection mechanisms. The EU allocated an additional €600,000 to UNICEF to improve the health system’s capacities to care for patients and protect the vulnerable population in Cuba.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) allowed the repatriation of EU citizens stranded in the Dutch Caribbean islands, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Barbados and Haiti. Some Caribbean States and territories also received protective and medical equipment, materials and drugs.
Thanks to EU funding, in Cuba, WFP and UNDP provided 1,000 family hygiene kits and 1,500 thermometers to the National Civil Defence to reinforce sanitary measures in evacuation centres and support the victims of Hurricane ETA floods.
Through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, EU-funded supplies have been used to support affected population by Hurricane ETA in Cuba and Dengue outbreak control interventions in Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and Grenadines.
A joint EU response strategy to provide emergency assistance, to rebuild after the hurricanes and to strengthen community and institutions resilience (NEXUS) is in place between the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation departments. Linking emergency relief and longer-term development interventions, contribute to strengthening the ability of the most vulnerable populations to cope with disasters as well as to be better preparedness.