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


In Central America and Mexico, natural hazards, violence, and displacement have all exacerbated the ongoing humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates that one third of the region’s population, 9.3 million people, require humanitarian aid – an 80% rise from 2020.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants aiming for North America regularly cross the hostile jungle of the Darién Gap, bordering Colombia and Panama. In 2023, as of September, 400,000 people have risked their lives here.

What are the needs?

According to the UN, millions of people across the region are food insecure, with steadily decreasing coping capacities further exacerbated by El Niño. This includes 4.6 million people in Guatemala and 2.6 million in Honduras.

Widespread, extreme violence has triggered humanitarian and protection needs that are equivalent to warzones. 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.

Vulnerable people require humanitarian assistance for basic provisions, from food and shelter to education and protection. Asylum seekers often have limited access to services and employment, are exposed to xenophobia and discrimination and require legal assistance.

In El Salvador and Honduras, a state of emergency currently hampers humanitarian access to vulnerable communities.

In Nicaragua, government repression continues to reduce the humanitarian space. Over 741,000 Nicaraguans have left the country between 2018-2022, surpassing the cold war era.

In 2022, Nicaragua was the 4th largest country of origin for displaced people globally. Most of these people fled to Costa Rica, now the world’s 3rd largest recipient of new individual asylum applications.

Map Central America and Mexico

How are we helping?

Since 1994, the EU has provided €334 million in humanitarian aid to Central America and Mexico.

In 2023, the EU has allocated €23 million to the region, including €1.3 million released to respond to the impact of hurricane Otis in Mexico.

EU humanitarian funding supports projects providing protection to displaced people across Central America, to children and families affected by violence in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. We also provide support to the victims of Nicaragua’s civil unrest, both within and beyond the country.  

EU funding has also 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 has also meant vulnerable communities can build resilience in the face of potential future disaster.

Since 2020, the EU has allocated over €87 million to strengthen disaster preparedness, an integral part of EU-funded humanitarian projects.

An improved, timely response to disasters requires targeted actions assisting local communities and institutions. This enables them to identify risks and mitigation measures both before and during natural disasters, including:

  • 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 (was this DP?)
  • the devastating hurricanes Eta and Iota in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
  • floodings caused by tropical storm Julia (not DP)
  • forced displacement and mixed migration from Panama to Mexico.

EU-funded disaster preparedness actions focus on risk analysis, forecast-based anticipatory actions, preparedness in conflict and fragile settings, including the monitoring of displacement patterns, climate and environmental resilience.

The EU’s satellite system COPERNICUS was activated in 2020, 2021,2022 and 2023 to provide free imagery in support of disaster response to floods in the northern Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and wildfires in the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, as well as hurricane Otis in Acapulco.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism assisted Guatemala’s national response system in responding to forest fires in April 2019. The Mechanism was also triggered after the COVID-19 outbreak to address needs for medical supplies, including vaccinations and equipment in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. It also coordinated repatriation flights of EU citizens stranded in the region.

In Nicaragua, the EU has allocated €64 million on humanitarian funding since 1994, including €25 million on Disaster Preparedness. The EU currently funds 2 projects here:

  • with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, to scale up anticipatory action ahead of drought and food insecurity in the departments of Estelí, Madriz and Matagalpa
  • with UNICEF, to strengthen protection and education services for vulnerable children and adolescents in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. In Nicaragua, the project is implemented in areas affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN) in 2020.

Last updated: 22/11/2023

Facts & figures

More than 1 million internally displaced persons. (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre)

Over 636,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Northern Central America worldwide. (UNHCR)

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

Some 400,000 people have crossed the Darien gap between Panama and Colombia to continue their journey through Central America so far in 2023. (Panama Government)

EU humanitarian funding:
€88 million for 2020-2023
€334 million since 1994

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