Due to on-going crises in other parts of the world, as well as the limited availability of funding, it seems that the Central-American region has been slightly neglected by international development support in comparison with other areas over the past years. But Guatemala is still one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. The country faces a multi-hazard scenario, which is explained by its geographical location in the influence zone of hurricanes, seismic/tectonic activity, volcanic eruptions and hydro-meteorological events. According to the report of INFORM 2015 (Index for Risk Management), Guatemala has the highest risk index (5,3) in Central America, drawing level with the risk index of Nepal (5,3) and the Philippines (5,2).
The earthquake in 1976 initially disclosed the vast vulnerability that characterizes particularly the rural and indigenous communities in Guatemala. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch revealed the ecological vulnerability as well as the low capacity of both the government and the communities, to react effectively and efficiently to such events. Following events were the drought in 2001, Hurricane Stan in 2005, as well as the tropical storms Agatha and Alex in 2010 that lead to further loss and damages in the past years, again, especially among the indigenous and rural population.
Global studies on Climate Change anticipate rising trends in frequency and intensity of meteorological events, leading to ever more intense impacts.
The above mentioned disasters set back the country’s development efforts repeatedly and hamper achievements of economic growth and poverty reduction. In the years dating from 1990 to 2011, economic losses worth 120 million US$ have been registered as a consequence to natural disasters.
Guatemala has a population of 16.02 million people, which constitute a 37% of the 43 million inhabitants of Central America. In 2001, 54% of the population was living below the national poverty line (Worldbank, 2001). This is important to bear in mind, since poverty is closely connected to the level of vulnerability, and therefore correlates with the resilience and adapting capacity of the population to influence the risks that they are living with.
The DRR project of Diakonie/Caritas seeks to build capacities of two kind: On one hand it aims to develop the institutional preparedness capacities of three local partner organizations (Two local Caritas organizations and the health based organization ASECSA), which is realized through the development of institutional Emergency Preparedness and Contingency Plans. On the other hand, disaster risk reduction and preparedness structures will be enhanced on community level. This involves the implementation and interpretation of disaster risk analysis, the ensuing elaboration of community action and response plans, as well as the implementation of micro projects that seek to mitigate disaster risks.
As the team leader of the consultancy firm adelphi research gGmbH for this 2 years project, I am rendering conceptual, methodological and technical advice to the three local implementing partners. This involves trainings on different subjects (e.g. disaster risk analysis, development of community action and contingency plans, mitigation projects), as well as the elaboration of a tool box with practical and context-sensitive DRR instruments that can be replicated in other countries.
For more insights on the project activities in Guatemala, please refer to the website of Caritas Los Altos.