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The varied geography of South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), which includes vast mountain chains, grasslands, and large river systems, makes this region particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. The whole region is exposed to a variety of natural hazards, and in recent years, the rising temperatures due to climate change are exacerbating natural disasters such as floods and landslides.
However, earthquakes remain the predominant threat. The region spans several fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active zones in the world, and earthquakes are a frequent occurrence. Major cities in South Caucasus are especially at risk. Moreover, earthquakes can trigger avalanches, landslides and mudflows, which pose a considerable threat as almost two-thirds of the entire population of the region live in mountainous areas.
Climate change is expected to increase vulnerabilities and exposure to hazards in the coming years, and will subsequently result in the need for greater adaptation and assistance in the South Caucasus.
The European Union's Humanitarian Response
Since 1992, the European Commission, through its European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), has provided over €188 million South Caucasus regions, including both humanitarian aid related to conflicts and natural disasters, and funding of disaster risk reduction initiatives.
The European Commission's Disaster Preparedness Project, DIPECHO, is a proven model to save lives and preserve livelihoods with some of the achievements being: DRR awareness significantly increased at all levels; introduction of DRR in school curriculum; inclusive DRR education to reduce the vulnerability of disadvantaged children; innovative pilot projects linking DRR with climate change adaptation; strengthening capacities of disaster management authorities, national organisations and communities, and gradually include DRR
in government policies and development plans. The total DIPECHO funding in South Caucasus since 2010 amounts to over €10.4 million.
In the present funding cycle (2017-2018), the European Union is funding community-based initiatives increasing the resilience of the population through simple, inexpensive measures such as disaster mapping, evacuation plans, building of safe havens and the pre-stocking of food. The EU also continues to fund school-based preparedness projects, and advocates with national and regional authorities to integrate disaster risk reduction into formal school curricula and general school activities. The current DIPECHO partners in the South Caucasus are: UNDP, UNICEF, Save the Children, Danish Red Cross (implemented through Armenian and Georgian Red Cross societies), Oxfam and Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB).