Central American countries and Mexico are highly exposed to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and other natural hazards. Every year, 1.7 million Central Americans require emergency aid.
There are severe humanitarian consequences resulting from the violence in Central America’s northern triangle of Guatemala, Honduras, and Salvador, which particularly affects children and women.
Central American populations and institutions are weakened by disasters combined with poverty and extreme levels of violence. This vulnerability leads to recurrent humanitarian emergencies. The most pressing needs usually include temporary shelter, food, safe water and proper sanitation, healthcare, protection, basic relief items, hygiene promotion (to prevent waterborne diseases), infrastructure repairs and the recovery of livelihoods.
Central America also bears the humanitarian consequences of organised violence, a silent emergency forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the northern triangle of Central America countries of Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras. The violence has led to death rates similar to war, causing displacement, lack of access to basic services, the recruitment of children and the confinement of populations by armed groups. Between 2010 and 2017, 120 952 homicides were recorded in the northern triangle.
The European Union addresses disasters before they even hit, funding disaster prevention projects and initiatives throughout the region. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures are included in all humanitarian projects, and disaster preparedness actions focus on strengthening the capacities of local communities and institutions, enabling them to identify risks and set up mitigation measures before natural hazards affect them. This includes developing and implementing national and local policies, setting up early warning systems, and training communities to evacuate civilians or provide emergency healthcare to victims. The EU also assists vulnerable people in the Central American who suffer recurrent droughts and food insecurity.
The European Union assists populations after every major disaster. In Mexico, following the 2017 earthquakes, which claimed over 450 lives and affected seven million children, the EU provided €158 000 for educational programmes and an additional €400 000 to protect affected children and their families.
When hurricane Nate hit the region in October 2017, €583 000 was committed in order to deliver essential relief items and provide access to water and sanitation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Costa Rica also received emergency assistance to help the most vulnerable recover their livelihoods and earn a living. In June 2018, €400 000 helped to provide healthcare and shelters to victims of the Volcan de Fuego eruption in Guatemala.
Between 2016 and 2017, through its Education in Emergency programme, the EU allocated €1.8 million to provide education, protection, and healthcare - including psychological support – to children and their families in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. In 2018, €2.5 million in assistance funded protection projection projects throughout the region to address urgent humanitarian needs resulting from organised violence.
Since 1994, the European Union has allocated €231 million in humanitarian aid to Central America and Mexico. About two thirds of this funding (€154 million) helped respond to emergencies such as floods, droughts, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, internal displacements and the humanitarian consequences of organised violence. The remaining third (€77 million) has been invested in preparing vulnerable communities and their institutions for future disasters.