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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

When emergencies strike, the EU is there to help


Natural and man-made disasters are intensifying worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic is just the last of a series of emergencies that have put humanity under a severe stress. Like for other natural hazards and crises, the most vulnerable populations pay the highest price.

Whenever there is a disaster or humanitarian emergency, the EU provides assistance for the affected countries and populations. This is why, more than ever, when emergencies strike, the EU is there to help.

Thanks to €4 per European citizen a year, the EU is one of the biggest donors of humanitarian aid in the world. Based on the international humanitarian principles, the EU provides needs-based humanitarian assistance to save and preserve lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by climate disasters.

The EU’s network of experts is permanently based in 40 countries across all continents. This is how the EU has been able to provide aid in 110 countries, helping millions of people in need.

In the past year, our colleagues have helped millions of people recover from disasters around the world.

Michael and the coronavirus air bridges operations

The coronavirus has left many countries in need of urgent assistance, including medical equipment and staff. Since May 2020, the EU has mobilised over 70 Humanitarian Air Bridge flights from Europe to regions critically affected by the virus in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Michael is just one of the many people who contributed to transport over 1,100 tonnes of medical equipment and more than 1,700 medical and humanitarian staff. He participated in the Humanitarian Air Bridge to South Sudan, which carried on board humanitarian supplies and medical equipment needed to support the national response to the pandemic.

For any flight coming to South Sudan, several layers of approvals are required from different authorities. Michael’s role was crucial to ensure that all the required approvals for the humanitarian flights were done and that the aid were delivered to local humanitarian partners.

Michael believes that “to defeat the coronavirus, we must work together and stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable.”

Noel in the Bahamas

Cyclone Dorian hit the Bahamas in the afternoon of 1 September 2019, pummelling the islands with powerful winds and storms for 30 hours. It caused widespread destruction in Grand Bahama Island and Abaco Island.

Noel arrived in the aftermath of the hurricane and coordinated the EU response with the Bahamas authorities and humanitarian partners. Noel visited shelters and devastated communities to ensure people who lost their homes received immediate assistance. “This has been the greatest expression of EU joint solidarity as a response to a disaster that I have ever seen in the Caribbean,” according to Noel.

The EU mobilised €500,000 in humanitarian aid funding via the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to address the most urgent needs. Through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the Netherlands deployed 2 ships with a combined crew of 550 Dutch, 50 French and 50 German marines that worked on relief operations from 11 to 20 September 2019.

Alfonso in Bolivia

In August and September 2019, large areas of South America, especially the Amazon basin suffered from massive forest fires. Just like Brazil, Bolivia also experienced larger fires than average. Local farmers and loggers burn land every year to prepare it for new crops. However, the effects of climate change, such as the rise of temperatures and the increase drought, worsened these fires.

The EU offered to help control the spread of these fires in the Chiquitania region; 4,300 personnel including volunteers, professional services, and the army were involved in response operations. Alfonso was part of the team who coordinated the response. He supported Bolivian authorities by facilitating in-kind assistance offered to Bolivia from other Member States, such as France, Denmark, and Spain. He also coordinated the provision of maps and expert information on forest fires.

Hugo in Paraguay

In recent years, the consequences of climate change, such as decreased rainfall alternating with recurrent severe droughts, have increasingly affected the American Gran Chaco. This has devastating effects on the availability of food and water, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of families.

To address the issue, efforts have focused on reducing the risk of food shortages in central Chaco, where a large number of extremely vulnerable indigenous communities live.

The agronomist Hugo Baez went to the field to help the local community cope with these adverse weather conditions. Hugo promoted a specific drought management strategy for farmers that included water conservation tools, community-managed crop lots, protected by wide and circular algarrobo tree canopies, multipurpose moringa trees plantation, and the introduction of livestock breeding.

By promoting a strategy designed with the local community in mind, this ensured the effectiveness and the sustainability of the whole programme in the central Gran Chaco area.

Urko in Guatemala

Guatemala is part of the so-called “dry corridor” in Central America. It has an unpredictable rainfall pattern and severe droughts are frequent. These dry periods destroy the food reserves that rural communities would normally expect to build up to feed their families throughout the year.

Urko helps to provide immediate food assistance and livelihood opportunities to strengthen the resilience of communities regularly affected by drought. Urko ensures that there is enough food assistance and nutritional support to prevent the further erosion of the situation in years to come.

Sylvie in Laos

Heavy floods in Laos have affected the country’s agricultural sector, particularly crops, livestock, and fisheries. The effects of La Niña bring warm water to the nearby sea around Laos, and with it comes rain. Research now shows that the effects of climate change make the floods-causing rains much more likely.

Sylvie stands ready before the flood season hits. She provides vaccinations and treatment, medical supplies, equipment and devices for infectious diseases that are associated to these floods. Disaster risk reduction measures are needed to increase the resilience of local communities to extreme weather as floods, tropical depressions, and typhoons are common in this region.

Erika and Johannes in Mozambique

Cyclone Idai was one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to have affected Africa. It made landfall in Mozambique on 14 March 2019, bringing massive destruction, which injured 1,600 people and left nearly 600 people dead.

Erika and Johannes were deployed to assess the needs of the country and coordinate the response on the ground. They worked in a common hub together with other humanitarian organisations, such as the United Nations. Despite the challenges of putting together an overview of the emergency, and adapting to the political climate of the country, Johannes can proudly say the whole team performed well and made a huge difference. “We relieved some of the stress from the national authorities and carried the responsibility for the smooth arrival of the assistance coming from Europe.”