South America is exposed to multiple, often combined, natural hazards. Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters, hampering the resilience of the most vulnerable communities.
The region is also confronted with one of the largest population displacement movements of its history: more than 5 million Venezuelans have sought refuge in neighbouring South American countries (of which 1.8 million in Colombia, around 1.3 million in Peru, and roughly 510,000 respectively in Ecuador and Chile).
What are the needs?
The socio-economic crisis in Venezuela generated an exodus of 6.1 million people worldwide, heavily affecting the capacity of public services and host communities.
Latin America has also been hit hard by COVID-19, with staggering numbers of infections and deaths affecting indigenous communities particularly. Prior to the pandemic, they already lacked access to basic services, livelihoods, and poor sanitary conditions.
Local health facilities have become quickly overwhelmed, particularly in Venezuela, the Amazonian borders of Colombia, Peru, Brazil and the Pacific coast of Colombia.
Besides the spread of COVID-19, the consequences of climate change and the unpredictability of weather-related events also have a negative impact on the most vulnerable populations.
Helping affected populations recover their livelihoods is also essential. After emergencies, we also prioritise protection needs of the most vulnerable groups.
How are we helping?
Since 2018, the EU has allocated €252.5 million in humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Venezuelans in and outside the country. Our funding helps provide emergency healthcare, food assistance and protection, and support for the host communities.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has become the EU's priority. For this reason, we have mobilised €43.5 million in response to the emergency, including €14.5 million allocated for Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, and the redirection of resources from more than 60 projects.
All EU-funded humanitarian projects aim to guarantee access to water, conduct awareness campaigns, distribute hygiene kits and providing medical care, among other actions. We give particular attention to the impact of COVID-19 on the indigenous populations in the region.
In addition, as part of the EU global response to COVID-19, a Humanitarian Air Bridge operation consisting of 3 flights delivered life-saving material to Peru in 2020.
From 2016 to 2021, the EU allocated €33.6 million to disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela, as well as to strengthen regional DRR strategies in South America.
The EU's annual disaster preparedness fund supports preparation initiatives of institutions and communities to disasters, violence and crises. The EU also supports local disaster response committees in drafting emergency plans, setting up early warning systems, developing information and education campaigns, reinforcing vital infrastructure (shelters, schools and hospitals), protecting livelihoods, as well as promoting coordination among those responsible for anticipating or reacting to disasters.
The EU has earmarked €5 million for disaster preparedness projects in the region in 2021. This funding sums to dedicated allocations addressed to the specific situations in Colombia and Venezuela.
South America has also received immediate support in the aftermath of disasters via the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism. Following the deadly earthquake that hit Ecuador in 2016 and claimed more than 650 lives, the EU coordinated relief efforts and provided €5 million in emergency response.
In 2017 and 2019, the EU also deployed experts and firefighters under the Mechanism to help Chile and Bolivia fight some of the worst forest fires recorded on the continent.
The Mechanism was also activated to address Bolivia's drought in October 2016, the worst floods in 30 years in Peru during March 2017, and to provide expertise in environmental risks related to oil spill, dam integrity and stability in Colombia in 2018.
In January 2019, an environmental expert was deployed through the Mechanism to support the Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative (CADRI) in Bolivia.
In early 2022, in the aftermath of the heavy rains that flooded extensive areas in eastern Brazil, the EU allocated €1 million in humanitarian funding to support the most affected communities. Another €500,000 has been allocated by the EU in June 2022 in response to flooding in North-East Brazil.
As the region experiences social changes, the EU promotes coordination across its humanitarian partners, civil society and the private sector for a more efficient response during emergencies in the region.