The activities proposed hereafter are still subject to the adoption of the financing decision ECHO/WWD/BUD/2013/01000
The Caribbean region experiences multiple natural disasters. The hurricane season lasts for six months (i.e. from June to November), with tropical storms often taking the form of a hurricane. The region is also prone to floods, flash floods, tsunamis, landslides and mudslides. Some islands experience earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The physical risk is combined with socioeconomic factors, such as high population density, fast demographic growth, inequality1 and great poverty. The combination of these factors results in highly vulnerable communities, with few coping capacities in the event of disaster. Moreover, climate change is likely to negatively affect disaster trends in the region.
The hurricanes season of 2008 demonstrated tragically the Caribbean region’s exposure and vulnerability to disasters. Hurricanes and tropical storms devastated parts of Haiti and Cuba (three hurricanes made landfall on Cuba in less than three months) and also caused important damages in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos.
Hurricanes, floods and mudslides claimed more than 800 lives in the region with Haiti particularly affected. Moreover, some 114 people perished in floods caused by Tropical Storm Noel in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica in November 2007. In Suriname in June 2008, severe flooding occurred causing tremendous damage to inland communities. Next seasons have also impacted significantly the region. In 2010 Tropical Storms Nicole in Jamaica as well as Hurricane Tomas in Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and Grenadines affected more than 200,000 people and in 2011 Tropical Storm Ophelia in Dominica and Hurricane Irene in Bahamas caused severe rainfall over the islands and flooding and conducting to the deployment of international support .
Earthquakes are also frequent in certain areas of the region, especially in Haiti, Cuba,
Dominican Republic and Trinidad. An estimated three million people were affected by the January 2010 Haiti earthquake; the Haitian Government reported that an estimated 230,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and 1,000,000 made homeless. All countries in the Caribbean region, with the exception of the Bahamas and Guyana, border two important tectonic plates; the North American and the Caribbean. Caribbean islands lie in an area of relatively high earthquake activity and, based on patterns previously recorded, an earthquake of 8.0 could hit at any time.
The economic and social losses following natural disasters in the Caribbean states are significant; according to Center for research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) data base, around USD 1.5 billion is lost every year. With limited economic diversification and tourism and agriculture being two of the major foreign exchange earners for the Caribbean, natural disasters can mean devastation for local economies. All of these effects are exacerbated by the small size, limited resource bases and reliance upon climate sensitive sectors.
Natural hazards can be considered to pose a significant challenge to sustainable development. These natural hazards change the natural environment and result in social and economic disruption, trauma, property damage and loss of life. The physical risk is combined with socioeconomic factors such as high population density, fast demographic growth, inequality and great poverty. The combination of these factors results in highly vulnerable communities, with few coping capacities in the event of a disaster.
Even though the number of casualties caused by slow onset disasters is lower, damage to livelihoods and cumulative losses have a dreadful impact on national economies. As an example, droughts are usually generated by months or even years of deficit of precipitation; Cuba has listed droughts as its second priority in terms of disaster preparedness, focusing efforts on the central and eastern provinces. In Haiti, droughts' negative consequences are so serious that DG ECHO3 had to respond through interventions encompassing multiple instruments such as the Food Aid budget line and the launching of a country HIP.
Whilst over the years thematic and geographic considerations have slightly changed, the Caribbean DIPECHO (Disaster Preparedness – ECHO) programme has remained focused mostly on preparation for hurricanes, tropical storms and/or excess of precipitation. However, other phenomena such as drought and earthquakes are to be taken into consideration more strongly. The decision to expand thematic priorities is the result of an analysis based on: recurrence of the event; level of exposure in terms of population and economic value at risk; institutional response capacity; governments' priorities.