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In the last several decades, disasters have caused human and economic losses across the region

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union´s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG-ECHO) have signed partnership agreements in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago aimed at supporting these countries to be better prepared to respond and recover from disasters.

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is one of the most vulnerable regions to extreme weather events. Between 1997 and 2017, one in four natural hazards recorded in the world occurred in the LAC region.

The reduction of deaths caused by hazards had been consistently decreasing in the region, in part due to increased preparedness for humanitarian interventions. This important achievement has now been almost cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard the region.

“According to OCHA, Latin America and the Caribbean is the second most disaster-prone region in the world with 152 million people affected by 1,205 disasters between 2000-2019. In this context, our cooperation with the European Union has been and continues to be instrumental in improving and enhancing coordination for emergency preparedness, response, and recovery,” said Luis Felipe López-Calva, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Over the past years, UNDP partnered with DG-ECHO and local actors to enhance capacities and develop procedures to strengthen preparedness and response to natural hazards, man-made disasters and epidemics. For example, the implementation of Early Warning Systems (EWS) to help communities have a timely knowledge of upcoming hazards has been one of the key areas of our cooperation. Under the leadership of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in alliance with UNDP, IFRC and OCHA, six countries sought to strengthen disaster preparedness and risk reduction through EWS.

The regional collaboration between the EU and the UNDP has shown positive results in 2020, notably in Ecuador and across the Caribbean, a trend that mirrors a global partnership that has seen the European Union funding some 91 UNDP interventions for a total of approximately €164 Million since 2003.

“We are pleased to continue working with the UNDP across the disaster-prone Latin America and Caribbean region, where Covid-19 outbreaks, conflicts and violence as well as forced migrations cumulate their negative effects to the impact of natural hazards,” says Alvaro de Vicente, Head of DG ECHO´s regional office in Latin American and the Caribbean. “Our joint objectives are to reinforce authorities’ preparedness and capacities to timely intervene either before or immediately after a disaster. We also aim at supporting first responders’ capacities and the resilience of people exposed to multiple risks and living in vulnerable circumstances, with a particular focus on indigenous populations.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crises magnify underlying inequalities and negatively affect communities and countries widening the poverty gap. As the region battles the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic, many countries suffer additional impacts from the rapidly changing climate such as extreme heat, changing precipitation patterns, fires, volcanos, floods and hurricanes, affecting urban areas, agricultural productivity, hydrological regimes, and biodiversity.  

In Colombia, UNDP will partner with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the National Disaster Risk Management Department (UNGRD) and the National Victims Unit (UARIV) to improve the emergency preparedness and response efforts. The initiative will focus primarily on the local level, in areas most affected by violence and disasters, and with low capacities to respond. Our work will also focus on the most vulnerable, including ethnic and indigenous communities.

In Ecuador, the partnership will support indigenous communities affected by the ash falls of the Sangay volcano and living in earthquakes and climate risk prone areas, with practical contingency plans and mechanisms, maintenance of water infrastructure and improved early recovery measures. The initiative will also promote the dissemination of information and knowledge about hazards and risks.

In Bolivia, the partnership will focus on the Chiquitania region, where frequent forest fires and the incidence of respiratory diseases exacerbate the vulnerabilities of indigenous and small farmers’ populations. It also aims to put in place the first response capacities and integratee them into the firefighting response plans.

In Trinidad and Tobago, where flooding has had significant economic and social impact, an EU-funded initiative implemented by UNDP will support communities and local authorities to put in place early warning systems and undertake preparedness and response actions.

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