Located in the “hurricane belt” and surrounded by several tectonic plates, the Caribbean region is regularly struck by disasters. The annual hurricane season sees extreme storms affecting thousands of people. The Caribbean is also prone to droughts, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods, landslides, mudslides, earthquakes, and recurrent epidemics (including cholera, zika, and dengue).
Socio-economic challenges such as high population density, fast demographic growth, high inequality, poverty rates, and lack of resources exacerbate the region’s vulnerability and test coping capacities when disasters strike.
The extreme hurricane season at the end of 2017 caused widespread destruction and extensive humanitarian needs. Tropical cyclones Irma and Maria – both category 5, maximum-strength hurricanes – devastated the islands of Dominica, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda; they also severely affected Turks & Caicos, St Kitts & Nevis, Sint Maarten and Saint Martin, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, leaving millions destitute.
Continuously exposed to multiple geo-climatic hazards, the Caribbean is also affected by extreme droughts. This specific vulnerability requires both disaster preparedness programmes and humanitarian relief interventions. The protection of displaced and migrant populations is also a priority in some countries.
Since 1994, the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) have provided €562.9 million in humanitarian aid to the Caribbean.
Out of this, €388.7 million has been allocated to Haiti, where the EU funds programmes against recurrent food insecurity by providing shelter, safe drinking water, healthcare, food assistance, protection, livelihood assistance, and access to water and sanitation.
Over the same period, €174.2 million has funded the response to humanitarian emergencies throughout the rest of the Caribbean, while €73.1 million has been committed to disaster preparedness projects. The European Union focuses on linking emergency relief and longer-term development interventions, helping to strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable populations.
After category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall on several Caribbean islands in September 2017, the European Union committed €8 million to provide temporary shelters, safe drinking water, health, sanitation services and food aid to Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, and Turks & Caicos.
The 2017 hurricane season followed severe weather hazards that have plagued the region in recent years, including tropical storm Erika, which battered Dominica in August 2015, and an extreme drought that has affected over 6.2 million people in Caribbean countries since 2015 (a consequence of the El Niño weather phenomenon).
From 2015 to 2017, the EU funded projects in Haiti (€12.2 million), the Dominican Republic (€1.1 million), and Cuba (€700 000) to mitigate the impact of the drought on people’s livelihoods, food security, nutritional status and health.
Through its DIPECHO programme, the European Union allocated another €14.1 million for disaster preparedness across the Caribbean for the same period. Some of the funded projects included promoting early warning systems; improving awareness of natural hazards; and strengthening health infrastructure, shelters and school facilities to withstand disasters. For 2018-2019, an additional €12.3 million is allocated for disaster preparedness.