Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) experience a multitude of natural hazards, including earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, landslides, volcanoes, forest fires, and drought. El Niño, a climate pattern that occurs on average once every three to seven years, periodically exacerbates the impacts of hydrometeorological events. Environmental degradation and poor land-use management also increase populations’ vulnerability to natural hazards.
USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) supports disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs aimed at saving lives, alleviating human suffering, and reducing the social and economic impact of disasters in LAC. These programs include risk identification, prioritization, and reduction, as well as post-disaster recovery and short-term rehabilitation projects. The focus of DRR funding in LAC is to enhance local and national self-sufficiency in disaster preparedness and management throughout the region. To this end, USAID/OFDA’s programs build upon and strengthen the capacity of established national and regional disaster management institutions, many of which are capable of meeting the majority of emergency needs after an event.
Established in 1989, the Regional Disaster Assistance Program (RDAP) is the primary vehicle for USAID/OFDA’s support of disaster risk management in LAC. USAID/OFDA’s team of five regional advisors based in San José, Costa Rica, and a consultant network of 20 disaster risk management specialists dispersed throughout the region, oversee and monitor RDAP and other DRR programs. Since its inception, RDAP has contributed to the increased capacity of disaster management personnel and governments in LAC countries. As this capacity has improved, USAID/OFDA support has shifted from a strictly instructional approach to providing more technical assistance for planning, strengthening, and centralizing the role of national organizations in disaster management. USAID/OFDA’s technical assistance focuses on supporting local disaster management trainers to instruct local disaster responders in emergency response procedures. Through RDAP, USAID/OFDA has helped expand local and regional capabilities, improve intra- and inter-governmental coordination, and strengthen disaster preparedness and mitigation activities, as well as risk management initiatives.
USAID/OFDA supports the development of risk management in LAC through a wide range of programs. During FY 2012, USAID/OFDA provided nearly $16.9 million for DRR projects throughout LAC, including programs that integrate DRR with disaster response. The programs discussed herein include both FY 2012-funded programs as well as ongoing programs funded in previous fiscal years.