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Overcoming disasters in Latin America

From the Christian Aid Latin American and the Caribbean team

Throughout Latin American, communities are working to reduce the impact of natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic activity.

As these disasters become more frequent and intensify, there is a risk that many families will be unable to bounce back from one disaster to the next.

Properties are destroyed and businesses are lost, significantly impacting the lives of local communities - many of which are the most marginalised and excluded.

Though these disasters are often natural, some disasters are man-made.

Extractive industries including mining and hydroelectric dams are dramatically changing the landscape, contributing to climate change and the destruction of the environment.

This blog looks into the challenges our partners face and how they work to improve disaster risk reduction.

Development of systems for disaster risk reduction in Central America
Big business in Brazil

In Brazil, disasters are often man-made, for example infrastructure and mining projects.

The mining sector is lobbying to relax legal requirements, which could weaken socio-environmental policies. This could destroy the environment and expose the local population to disasters.

In Oriximiná, where our partner CPI works to protect the rights of Quilombola communities, mining has had an immense environmental impact and mining operations have little transparency or dialogue with the local communities.

Quilombola communities

CPI helps Quilombola communities to achieve resilience and autonomy.

Together with CPI, we are raising awareness around the environmental impacts and risks of mining dams in Oriximiná.

We also aim to increase the monitoring of mining activities by publishing surveys and promoting further public debate.

Our work also involves assisting Quilombola communities in negotiations with the public authorities and mining companies.

This includes ensuring an emergency plan for dams is in place to reduce the risk of disasters.

Development of systems for disaster risk reduction in Central America
Natural disasters in Central America

In Central America, droughts have increased in frequency and length, making it harder for farmers to recover from repeated losses.

With volcanic eruptions and earthquakes also frequent in the region, Central America is also vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms.

Since 4 October, 2018, torrential rain from two low-pressure systems have triggered flash floods and mudslides across western Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and the coast of Guatemala.

This is forecast to continue, while a preliminary report from the European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG-ECHO) shows that 145,203 people have already been affected across Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

... homes were repaired thanks to the response from our Haiti/DR programme after Hurricane Matthew
Preparing for disasters in Haiti

The 2018 Global Climate Risk Index listed Haiti as one of the top three countries most affected by natural disasters.

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti ravaging the South and Grand Anse region and leaving over 200,000 in humanitarian need. The coastal communities are particularly vulnerable and each year face tremendous loss during hurricane season.

Our Haiti/DR programme provides lifesaving assistance to those affected during these crises.

In response to hurricane Matthew, the programme provided cash assistance to 4,845 people and repaired the homes of 5,115 individuals.

We supported 19,730 individuals to restore their livelihoods, but most importantly, we helped these communities create greater resilience to future shocks through Disaster Risk Reduction activities.

For example, 90 new model hurricane-resistant homes were constructed to provide families with adequate housing that will shelter and keep them safe during future storms.

Creating resilient communities

Every year disasters cost the global economy an estimated US$520 billion, displacing millions of people and pushing many of them into poverty.

According to the UN, reducing economic losses from disasters has the power to transform lives.

Christian Aid supports and stands together with resilient communities that are struggling to overcome the risks caused by disasters and the unequal system that jeopardises and marginalises poor people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Disaster risk reduction saves lives.

Useful links


Find out more about our work on resilience and our work in Brazil