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Monday, May 01, 2006 

01 May 2006

New Disaster Prevention Fund Created for Latin America, Caribbean

$10 million fund aims to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A new $10 million fund has been created by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to help the Latin America/Caribbean region reduce its vulnerability to natural disasters.

In an April 26 statement, the IDB said the fund is needed because vulnerability to natural disasters is one of the biggest threats to development in the region.

Over the years, the IDB said, multilateral agencies and donor countries such as the United States have provided billions of dollars to Latin America and the Caribbean for reconstruction after disasters. Even though such efforts regularly have emphasized prevention and mitigation against future events, most countries in the region are described as still needing to strengthen their capacity to manage disaster risks.

Besides killing thousands of people, natural disasters such as hurricanes, tidal waves, floods, earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions disrupt the lives of millions and cause catastrophic damage to public and private property, often wiping out decades of investments and deepening economic and social disparities.

The IDB said its fund will make grants to assist countries in activities such as identifying risks to natural hazards, preparing disaster prevention projects, designing prevention and mitigation investments in high-risk areas and improving early warning, communications and public information systems.

The fund also may support activities to strengthen regional insurance markets and establish regional networks of experts on risk assessment, disaster prevention, emergency preparedness and reconstruction. Similar activities sponsored by the Caribbean Development Bank also may be backed by the new fund. The Caribbean Development Bank, based in Bridgetown, Barbados, assists Caribbean nations in financing their social and economic programs.

As an example of its ongoing disaster relief program to Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contributed in 2005 more than $14 million in relief and reconstruction aid to Central America and southern Mexico following a series of devastating hurricanes to the region. Through USAID and the Department of Defense, the total U.S. government contribution to that region was more than $21 million in 2005.

In addition, the United States and the other nations involved in the Summit of the Americas process have expressed support for addressing the special problems of the Caribbean's small island states.

In addition to environmental vulnerability, these problems include illicit drug trafficking, illegal trade in arms, increasing levels of crime and corruption, the transportation of nuclear waste and economic vulnerability (particularly in relation to trade), health threats such as HIV/AIDS and increased levels of poverty. (See related article.)

USAID facts sheets on hurricane aid to Central America and Mexico hurricane victims and on its Caribbean Regional Program are available on the USAID Web site.

For additional information on the Summit of the Americas, see Summit of the Americas.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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