Central America and Mexico are regularly exposed to natural hazards. Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic threaten food security for populations in the Dry Corridor of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. At least 8.2 million people require food assistance.
COVID-19 also increased violence and displacement. There are around 1.7 million people internally displaced and more than 900,000 refugees and asylum seekers. The area is also exposed to the influx of continental and extra-continental refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
The humanitarian crisis caused by extreme violence, particularly in northern Central America (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) and Mexico, triggers humanitarian and protection needs similar to those typical of conflict areas.
These needs are linked to (i) displacement, (ii) forced child recruitment, (iii) sexual and gender-based violence, (iv) lack of access to basic services and (v) extortion. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, armed groups have been taking advantage of lockdown measures to strengthen their control.
Vulnerable people require humanitarian assistance for basic needs such as health, water and sanitation, shelter, as well as safety, protection and recovery of resources. Asylum seekers also face the challenge of the uncertain legal status in their host country. This limits their access to services and employment, and increases xenophobia and discrimination.
To respond to natural hazards and the increasing food insecurity, communities and local institutions need to strengthen their resilience and coping capacities.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), before COVID-19, there were around 5.2 million people in need in the northern sub-region of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador). By August 2021, this figure increased to 8.3 million people.
The EU is responding to urgent relief needs in Central America generated by violence and addressing food insecurity, the humanitarian consequences of forced displacement and disaster preparedness throughout the region.
Since 1994, the European Union allocated €280 million in humanitarian aid to Central America and Mexico. Of this funding, €190.6 million helped respond to emergencies such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, internal displacement and violence.
The remaining €89.4 million helped vulnerable communities build resilience to face future disasters.
For 2019-2021, the EU allocated €47.3 million to respond to different needs across the region. From the recurrent droughts in the Dry Corridor of Central America, the Dengue epidemic in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, to COVID-19, tropical storm Amanda in Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as hurricanes Eta and Iota in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
This funding also considers the humanitarian and protection needs of displaced people throughout the region (from Panama to Mexico), the victims of the civil unrest prevailing in Nicaragua and its spill over effects in Costa Rica.
EU humanitarian funding provided protection, health care and education in emergencies to children and families in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica affected by violence.
We integrate disaster preparedness in almost all projects, with targeted actions focusing on strengthening local communities and institutions. This enables them to identify risks and mitigation measures before natural hazards affect them.
Disaster preparedness actions include (i) supporting the implementation of national and local policies, (ii) setting up of early warning systems, (iii) training communities to evacuate civilians, or (iv) provide emergency health care to victims, including those affected by human-induced crisis.
Our funding also includes dedicated programmes for disaster preparedness and shock responsiveness, through the integration of protection and information management on community, national and regional levels.
Additionally, the EU activated its Civil Protection Mechanism to assist the Guatemalan national response system to tackle the forest fires in April 2019.
Recently, the Mechanism has been triggered after the COVID-19 outbreak, to respond to the need of medical supplies, including vaccinations and equipment in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and to provide COPERNICUS imagery for the floods in the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. The response also helped to coordinate repatriation flights of EU citizens stranded in the region.