The Commission's seventh DIPECHO (Disaster Preparedness ECHO) Action Plan, worth €10 million, will target the most vulnerable local communities and their institutions involved in risk reduction in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Furthermore, regional programming could take into account the whole of Central America. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 people will benefit directly from this Action Plan. Funds will be channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), under the responsibility of Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.
"In the very first hours of a disaster, the population at risk are the best placed to respond and save lives and property," said Commissioner Georgieva. "By helping people to help themselves, disaster preparedness should be seen as the first response instrument."
Central America is considered one of the most disaster prone regions in the world, in terms of recurrence of hazards, their severity and scope and the significant potential for major disasters.
The experience gained during the implementation of the previous Action Plans for Central America is very significant. In September 2007, Hurricane Felix made landfall in Sandy Bay, Nicaragua, where a DIPECHO project was being implemented. Community emergency committees had been formed and trained in emergency procedures, and had received communication equipment. This enabled the community to respond, and no lives were lost in the community despite the severity of the material damage caused by the hurricane. Moreover, the Early Warning System developed in Nicaragua under several Action Plans in response to volcanic risk has been adopted as a model by the Civil Defence.
Hydro-meteorological events have been predominant over the last years, where floods have affected more than 2.2 million people since 1990. Over the same period, more than 5 million people have been hit by windstorms, most notoriously by Hurricanes Mitch, Stan and Felix in 1998, 2005 and 2007 respectively. Hydro-meteorological events are the cause of 82% of the total of human lives lost caused by all types of disasters over the period 1990-2009 in the region. A number of droughts, a slow-onset disaster, affected over 1.5 million people in the past nineteen years. Geological events and more specifically earthquakes generate the most significant economic losses. For example, the two earthquakes which hit El Salvador in 2001 affected a total of 1.5 million people.