© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2639/LeMoyne

A girl stands in her Port-au-Prince home, which was heavily damaged by the 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Natural disasters characterize major emergencies in the region, which also has great disparities between rich and poor.

Children and women in crisis

The region of Latin America and the Caribbean is marked by extreme natural disasters, ranging from intense hurricanes, torrential rains and flash flooding to prolonged drought, intense volcanic activity and devastating earthquakes. In addition to the repeated loss of livelihood that leaves the most vulnerable populations in a cycle of insecurity, displacement caused by disaster increases risks of abuse, sexual and gender-based violence, HIV transmission, exploitation and trafficking – each already a significant problem in the region. Severe droughts are causing serious water shortages in South America’s Gran Chaco region from Paraguay to the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and food and nutrition crises in Central American dry corridors stretching from Guatemala to Honduras and Nicaragua.

Currently, nearly 24 per cent of children under age 5 in the entire Latin America and Caribbean region are stunted due to poor nutrition.1 Lack of preparedness for and response to these crises increases risks for women and children, who are already extremely vulnerable. With great disparities between rich and poor in the region, the main challenges to disaster response are addressing the needs of the poorest and working with national structures for more effective disaster management.

Meeting urgent needs and building resilience in 2011

UNICEF’s Americas and the Caribbean Regional Office (TACRO), together with partners including government agencies across the region and other international agencies through the Risk, Emergency, and Disaster Task Force Inter-Agency Workgroup for Latin America and The Caribbean (REDLAC) mechanism, will continue to strengthen its ability to respond quickly to the array of natural disasters that characterize the region as well as humanitarian situations deriving from socio-political issues.

Humanitarian funding at work: Highlights from 2010

In 2010, UNICEF estimated that US$1.8 million wasneeded to fund its human-itarian work in Latin America and the Caribbean. As of October 2010, no funding had been received. The regional office, however, was able to use DIPECHO (Disaster Preparedness ECHO) funds carried over from 2009, as well as resources from the Government of the Netherlands and UNICEF emergency thematic funds to respond quickly and effectively when the earthquake devastated Haiti. UNICEF, in cooperation with partners,2 mobilized supplies from its hub in Panama, deployed specialized human resources to aid in the response, and provided emergency response technical advisory and advocacy support in the early response stages. Throughout the year, the regional team continued to aid country offices facing emergencies – including Barbados, Belize, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and the Plurinational State of Bolivia – organizing early warning/early action training in 11 countries and conducting 17 capacity-building workshops for disaster risk reduction in the education sector.

Funding requirements for 2011

UNICEF is requesting US$13 million for its humanitarian work in Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen preparedness and response to the many disasters that affect the region. A strong focus will be on strengthening disaster risk reduction mechanisms in cooperation with national governments and partners.

More information on achievements during 2010 and the humanitarian action planned for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2011 can be found at www.unicef.org/hac2011 and at the regional office website, www.unicef.org/lac (in Spanish) and www.unicef.org/lac/english.html (in English).

1 Lutter, Chester K., and Camila M. Chaparro, La Desnutrición en Lactantes y Niños Pequeños en América Latina y El Caribe: Alcanzando los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio [Malnutrition in Infants and Young Children in Latin America and the Caribbean: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals], Pan American Health Organization, Washington, D.C., 2008, p. 17.
2 UNICEF’s partners in the region include the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation), the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Panama (run by the World Food Programme), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in cooperation with all agency members of the REDLAC regional coordination mechanism.

UNICEF Emergency Needs for 2011 (in US dollars) Total $13,000,000