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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
© OXFAM, 2020
Central America and Mexico



In Central America and Mexico, droughts, hurricanes, COVID-19, violence, displacement, political instability and the impact of the war on Ukraine have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis.

The UN estimates that 9.3 million people (1 in 3) require humanitarian assistance, 1 million more than in 2022 and 80 % more than in 2020. Violence and social unrest pushed 1 million people into forced displacement and over 600,000 have become refugees and asylum-seekers.

In 2022, over 250,000 people crossed the Darien Gap, one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes between Colombia and Panama. A record-breaking 2.4 million people were apprehended at the US-Mexican border.

What are the needs?

According to the UN, around 868,000 people in El Salvador, 700,000 in Nicaragua, 4.6 million in Guatemala and 2.6 million in Honduras are food insecure, with steadily decreasing coping capacities.

Widespread violence has triggered humanitarian and protection needs similar, in nature and scale, to those in conflict areas. The consequences include (i) forced displacement, (ii) movement restrictions or confinement, (iii) sexual and gender-based violence, (iv) child forced recruitment, (v) extortion, and (vi) rising barriers to accessing essential services and livelihoods.

The state of emergency issued in 2022 by the government of El Salvador and Honduras hampers humanitarian access, aggravating the already precarious situation of vulnerable communities.

In Nicaragua, the government’s repression continues while the humanitarian space shrinks, forcing people to leave. The country has one of the world’s largest number of newly displaced people. Most of them fled to Costa Rica, which has become one of the world’s largest recipient of asylum seekers.

Vulnerable people require humanitarian assistance for basic needs such as (i) health, (ii) food, (iii) water and sanitation, (iv) shelter, (v) education, (vi) safety, (vii) protection, and (viii) recovery of resources. Asylum seekers often have limited access to services and employment, are exposed to xenophobia and discrimination, and require legal assistance.

Map Central America and Mexico

How are we helping?

In 2023, the EU allocated €11 million in humanitarian aid to Central America and Mexico. Since 1994, we have mobilised €322 million to support humanitarian actions in the region. 

This funding helped respond to emergencies such as (i) floods, (ii) droughts, (iii) hurricanes, (iv) epidemics, (v) earthquakes, (vi) volcanic eruptions, (vii) population displacement, and (viii) violence. In addition, it also helped vulnerable communities build resilience to face future disasters.

Since 2020, the EU has allocated more than €76 million to strengthen disaster preparedness for a better and timely response and to respond to different humanitarian crises:

  • recurrent droughts in the Dry Corridor of Central America
  • the dengue epidemic in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua
  • COVID-19
  • tropical storms Amanda in Guatemala and El Salvador
  • the devastating hurricanes Eta and Iota in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua
  • flooding caused by tropical storm Julia
  • forced displacement and mixed migration from Panama to Mexico.

EU humanitarian funding supports projects providing protection support to displaced people across Central America, to children and families in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica affected by violence. We also support those affected by Nicaragua’s civil unrest, both inside and outside the country.

Disaster preparedness is an integral part of EU-funded humanitarian projects, with targeted actions focusing on strengthening local communities and institutions. This enables them to identify risks and mitigation measures before natural hazards affect them.

We support disaster preparedness actions such as:

  • risk, forecast-based and anticipatory actions
  • preparedness in conflict and fragile settings, including displacement patterns and protection issues
  • climate and environmental resilience
  • urban preparedness.

The EU’s satellite system COPERNICUS was activated in 2020, 2021 and 2022 to provide free imagery to support the response to the floods in the northern Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and wildfires in the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.

The EU activated its Civil Protection Mechanism to assist Guatemala’s national response system in tackling the forest fires in April 2019.

The Mechanism was also triggered after the COVID-19 outbreak to react to the need for medical supplies, including vaccinations and equipment in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The response also helped coordinate repatriation flights of EU citizens stranded in the region.

Last updated: 13/02/2023

Facts & figures

More than 1 million internally displaced persons.

Over 925,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Northern Central America worldwide. (UNHCR)

8.76 million people need assistance in the Dry corridor. including Nicaragua. (UN OCHA)

Some 250,000 people crossed the Darien gap between Panama and Colombia to continue their journey through Central America. (Panama Government)

EU humanitarian funding: 

€11 million in 2023

€76 million for 2019-2022

€322 million since 1994

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