7 disasters in the Americas in 2023 that you may not have heard about
Disasters and crises happen all the time around the world. Some make international headlines – like the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria or the international armed conflict in Ukraine – but others go unheard of to people outside the countries where they strike.
These smaller, lesser-known disasters still claim lives, destroy livelihoods, and set entire communities back.
The Americas region alone has faced many small and medium-sized disasters so far this year. But while these disasters may have gone unnoticed to the wider world, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the region have been there – right by the side of communities.
The IFRC has supported – getting money to our National Societies quickly through our Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) so they can prepare and respond effectively.
Let’s take a look at seven disasters in the Americas you may not have heard about from the first half of 2023, and how the IFRC network has supported the people affected.
1. Chile - forest fires:
In Febuary 2023, strong winds and high temperatures caused dozens of forest fires across central and southern Chile, leading to casualties and widespread damage. They followed earlier, destructive forest fires in December 2022 that spread rapidly around the city of Viña del Mar.
With DREF funding, the Chilean Red Cross provided support to more than 5,000 people affected by the fires over the following months. Staff and volunteer teams provided medical support to communities and distributed cash so that people could buy the things they needed to recover.
2. Uruguay - drought:
Uruguay is currently experiencing widespread drought due to a lack of rainfall since September 2022 and increasingly high temperatures in the summer seasons—prompting the Uruguayan government to declare a state of emergency.
The government officially requested the support of the Uruguayan Red Cross to conduct a needs assessment of the drought, so it could understand how it was impacting people and agricultural industries.
With funding from the DREF, Uruguayan Red Cross teams headed out into the most-affected areas to speak to more than 1,300 familiesabout the drought’s impact on their health, livelihoods and access to water.
Their findings are helping the government to make better-informed decisions on how to address the drought, taking into account the real needs of those affected.
This is the first time DREF funding has been used to support a damage assessment in this way.
3. Paraguay - floods:
In February and March 2023, heavy rains in northern Paraguay caused severe flooding—forcing many families to abandon their homes and paralyzing key infrastructure and industries.
The Paraguayan Red Cross responded, providing first aid and psychosocial support to people in temporary shelters. Volunteers also shared information with communities on how to protect themselves from water-borne diseases and from the increase in mosquitoes.
4. Ecuador - floods, earthquake, and landslides:
In the first quarter of 2023, Ecuador was struck by several, simultaneous disasters—floods, landslides, building collapses, hailstorms and an earthquake—that put the Ecuadorian Red Cross to the test.
Their volunteers deployed quickly provided wide-ranging support to people affected--including shelter, health care, water, sanitation and cash assistance. They also conducted surveys to understand exactly how people had been affected, and what they most needed to recover.
5. Argentina - floods:
In June, heavy rains caused flash flooding in the municipality of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, affecting an estimated 4,000 families. The flooding caused power outages, road closures and a contamination of water supplies—prompting the local authorities to request the support of the Argentine Red Cross.
Volunteer teams quickly mobilized to provide first aid and psychosocial support to people who had moved to evacuation centres in the area.
In the coming weeks and months, the Argentine Red Cross – with DREF funding – will provide shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene support to 500 of the most vulnerable families affected by the floods.
6. Haiti floods:
Flash floods also struck Haiti in early June following an exceptionally heavy rainstorm that swept the entire country. Though not classified as a cyclone or tropical downpour, the rainstorm nonetheless affected thousands of families, claimed more than 50 lives and submerged entire houses.
The Haitian Red Cross quicklydeployed rescue workers to provide first aid and assist with evacuations. Working alongside Movement partners, and with DREF support, they’ve also been distributing mattresses, shovels, rakes, hygiene kits, water treatment kits and plastic sheeting.
In a country already experiencing a cholera epidemic, Haitian Red Cross volunteers continue to share important information with communities about how to stay healthy and adopt good hygiene practices—especially important due to the increased risk from flood waters.
7. Dominican Republic - floods:
This same rainstorm in Haiti also affected communities across the border in the Dominican Republic, causing flash flooding in the country’s west.
The Dominican Red Cross has been providing humanitarian assistance in the form of search and rescue, evacuation, health and hygiene services, psychological first aid and restoring family links (RFL) services.
These are just a few examples of the many disasters that have hit the Americas so far this year.
With DREF support, Red Cross Societies across the region have been able to respond quickly to these disasters—providing effective and local humanitarian assistance directly to those who need it.
If you would like to help our network to continue responding to smaller disasters like these, please consider donating to our Disaster Response Emergency Fund today.
Building Trust programme
Building Trust during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Humanitarian Settings is our global programme supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to build trust in public health responses and in the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Haiti: Earthquake and Cholera
A major 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on 14 August 2021, killing more than 2,000 people and causing widespread destruction to people's homes and infrastructure. The Haiti Red Cross Society responded rapidly to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to those affected. More than one year on, this Emergency Appeal is supporting ongoing recovery and reconstruction efforts. And in December 2022, we revised the Appeal to also help the Haiti Red Cross Society control a Cholera outbreak in the country through water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and community engagement activities.
Communiqué of the Haitian Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on the protection of the medical mission to Haiti
The events of armed violence and the disruption of fuel distribution continue to hit Haiti and have humanitarian consequences for the population and their access to basic services, particularly health services.
Power outages are hampering the functioning of medical structures, goods and services. Pediatric, maternity, trauma, emergency and hospital care is at risk of being completely disrupted. The provision of care is also affected by the impossibility for healthcare personnel to commute to work.
The supply of diesel fuel to hospitals is urgently needed to ensure the safety of patients and the operation of generators and thus to save lives.
The Haitian Red Cross Society, with the support of its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, is actively working to respond to the humanitarian consequences of the earthquake that affected the southern region of the country. An emergency hospital has been deployed and is receiving more than 100 patients per day. Its operation is also at risk due to the unavailability of fuel.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement wishes to recall that the work of medical personnel, means of transport and medical infrastructure must be respected and protected and must not be impeded or obstructed. They are entrusted with the mission to prevent and alleviate the human suffering of injured or sick people, wherever they may be.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is a neutral, impartial and independent body. Its mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of disasters, armed conflicts or other situations of violence by providing aid and assistance whenever necessary. In this regard, respect for the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblem, ambulances and humanitarian personnel, including volunteers, is crucial for the respect of humanitarian principles.
| Press release
Haiti earthquake: thousands in dire need of health care and safe water
Port au Prince, Panama, Geneva, 7 September 2021— The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that access to health care and safe water is critical following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on 14 August.
More than 212,000 people are affected by damaged water systems, which limits their access to safe water for drinking and hygiene, putting them at risk of water-borne diseases.
Felipe del Cid, IFRC’s Head of Operation in Haiti, said:
“The damage assessments carried out by the Haitian Red Cross and the IFRC show that there are severe health, water, sanitation, and hygiene needs. Providing health care, guaranteeing access to safe water, and promoting hygiene is vital at this stage of the humanitarian response. It can prevent disease outbreaks and save lives.”
To respond to health care and hygiene needs, the Haitian Red Cross and the IFRC have been distributing water and hygiene kits to 2,115 families in the Nippes and Sud departments. They also received other relief goods, such as tarpaulins, blankets and kitchen supplies. In total, the IFRC and its network have already delivered 199 tonnes of relief goods to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. From there, it is transported to the affected areas by road, air or sea.
“More distributions are planned during the coming weeks, despite the challenging context. Delivering humanitarian aid is a complex task due to factors such as damaged roads, food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, and sociopolitical instability,” added del Cid.
Preventing the spread of waterborne diseases through access to safe water and hygiene promotion is at the core of the earthquake response. The Red Cross has already installed two water plants in the remote area of L’Asile. These plants will produce 60,000 liters of safe, clean water a day for 4,000 people. More plants will be set up in the following weeks, starting with one in Grand’Anse.
There is also an increased risk of vector-borne diseases, and respiratory transmission diseases such as COVID-19. This is the result of a combination of displacement, poor shelter options and lack of adequate access to safe water. The Red Cross continues to promote public health measures, including protection measures against COVID-19, to mitigate the risk of outbreaks.
Dr. Guiteau Jean-Pierre, President of the Haitian Red Cross, said:
“Haiti is facing overlapping crises: the pandemic, the earthquake, and the pre-existent humanitarian needs. In coordination with the authorities, communities, partners, and stakeholders, the Red Cross will continue to work tirelessly to help and prepare the most vulnerable communities. Another potential emergency could be life-threatening for them.”
The situation in the affected communities may deteriorate even further, as Haiti will likely face more weather-related disasters in the following weeks and months. The Caribbean is in the middle of its hurricane season, which runs from 1 June to 30 November and peaks between August and October. In anticipation of these disasters, the humanitarian teams on the ground are supporting the Haitian Red Cross’ preparedness plans.
In support of those who are still in dire need, the IFRC has released funding from its emergency fund (DREF) and launched an emergency appeal for 10 million Swiss francs to continue providing life-saving humanitarian aid and support the recovery from the earthquake.
For more information, to arrange interviews with Red Cross staff on the ground, or request B-roll/pictures, please contact:
In Haiti: Naomi Nolte | +31646808096 (WhatsApp) | +509 3616 5890 | [email protected]
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes | +507 6999-3199 | [email protected]
In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves | +44 7891 857 056 | [email protected]
| Press release
IFRC: Urgent life-saving efforts in Haiti underway as preliminary reports confirm earthquake devastation
Port au Prince, Panama, Geneva, 14 August 2021 - On Saturday, 14 August a major 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. According to Haiti's Office for Civil Protection, 227 have died and the figure is sadly expected to increase in the coming hours. Preliminary reports by Haitian Red Cross volunteers and IFRC staff on the ground confirm that the earthquake has caused severe damage to infrastructure, including hospitals, especially in Jérémie and Les Cayes, at the Northern coast of the Southern peninsula of the country.
Hospitals and hotels, as well as ports, bridges and routes are reported to have been damaged in Les Cayes and Jérémie, where churches collapsed while the morning mass was being celebrated. Search and rescue activities are concentrated in that area as there may be people trapped in the rubble.
Tropical Storm Grace is on its way and might affect the same areas that have been hit by the earthquake. In response to these compound crises, also taking into consideration the pre-existing vulnerabilities in the country, the IFRC has activated its global network of humanitarian aid specialists and is working on an emergency appeal to be launched within the next 48 hours with an initial allocation of up to 1 million Swiss francs from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
Roger Alonso, IFRC’s Disaster, Crises and Climate Unit, said:
“Life-saving efforts are the priority at this stage of the emergency. Providing support in search and rescue, first aid, emergency health care and shelter is a priority for the Red Cross.
“Together with the Haitian Red Cross, the IFRC is already working on the assessment of damages and needs in the affected areas, where services might have collapsed and homes have either been heavily damaged or fully destroyed, as well as roads and infrastructure in general. It is very likely that inhabitants have been forced to seek shelter.”
Providing psychological support is urgent as well, as many affected people went through the trauma of the 2010 earthquake. Preventing and controlling the transmission of COVID-19 and guaranteeing access to water, hygiene and sanitation, is also essential.
A humanitarian corridor in the Dominican Republic has been activated and prepositioned non-food items (NFIs) are ready for at leat 4,500 people. In addition, emergency items are prepositioned and available in Panama and the Caribbean.
Red Cross emergency specialists are currently being deployed to Haiti to support the assessment and immediate response in support of those affected, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as women, children, elderly and people with disabilities.
For more information, or to arrange interviews with Red Cross staff on the ground, please contact:
In Panama - Susana Arroyo Barrantes: +50769993199 [email protected]
In Geneva – Ann Vaessen: +41762164878 [email protected]
Haiti Red Cross Society
| Press release
Red Cross opens humanitarian corridor between the Dominican Republic and Haiti
Santo Domingo, 10 July 2020 – At the end of June, the IFRC was able to send relief items from the Dominican Republic to Haiti through a humanitarian corridor. The operation, activated in the context of the COVID-19 response, will benefit 2,000 vulnerable people in Haiti.
Together with the Haiti Red Cross, the Dominican Red Cross, the World Food Programme (WFP) and with funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and from the Belgian government, the IFRC developed a logistics model to respond quickly to emergencies in the Caribbean, especially in Haiti. The model is part of a wider strategy to create "Humanitarian Corridors of the Caribbean" and preposition stocks of essential supplies - such as hygiene kits, shelter kits, tarpaulins, jerry cans - which can be moved immediately after an emergency in the region, particularly during the hurricane season.
Thanks to the support of the Dominican Red Cross, the IFRC was able to stock emergency items in the Dominican Republic and send them to Haiti to respond to the urgent needs of vulnerable people. On 26 June 2020, 400 hygiene kits were delivered in Port-au-Prince to support the stay-at-home policy in the country, as part of the COVID-19 response, benefitting a total of 2,000 people.
The President of the Haitian Red Cross, Dr. Jean-Pierre Guiteau, said: "Since 2019, given the deteriorating security situation in Haiti as a result of socio-political tensions, we had been thinking about a humanitarian corridor that would allow transport of humanitarian supplies and could facilitate the urgent evacuation of patients requiring treatment that is not available in Haiti. Since then - together with the President of the Dominican Red Cross, as well as IFRC and UN representatives – we further developed the idea, which resulted into concrete actions taken during the coronavirus crisis. The IFRC was able to send us hygiene kits using this corridor. The humanitarian corridor is definitely a very useful tool, to be perfected and endorsed by Haiti and the Dominican Republic for the benefit of both countries during emergencies."
Raphael Hamoir, Disaster Management Coordinator for the IFRC and in charge of operations in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, said: "This operation is rather small in terms of the size of the delivery, but it’s significant in terms of partnerships. Thanks to bi-national support from the Haiti Red Cross and the Dominican Red Cross, and thanks to our collaboration with WFP, we were able to move stocks from the Dominican Republic to Haiti and help vulnerable families, in the context of the COVID-19 response."
The model was developed over the years as part of disaster preparedness plans, but was activated during the COVID-19 pandemic. “With COVID-19, it would take just one hurricane making landfall to create a very difficult situation in the Caribbean. With established and functional humanitarian corridors, we are increasing the number of options to get help where it is needed", Raphael Hamoir added.
| Press release
Red Cross releases emergency funds after violence rocks Haiti
Panama/Geneva, 20 February 2019 – More than 320,000 Swiss francs have been released from an International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) emergency fund to help the Haiti Red Cross Society respond to violent civil unrest in the country.
Large protests have been held across the country since the start of 2019, and a state of economic emergency was declared on 5 February.
IFRC has made 321,861 Swiss francs available from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Haiti Red Cross’ humanitarian operation, which will help 5,500 of the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis.
Walter Cotte, Director of IFRC’s Regional Office for the Americas, said: “Our priority is to ensure that the Haiti Red Cross is able to help as many people as possible with food, water and basic medical services during this emergency.
“The Haiti Red Cross is neutral and impartial, and its volunteers and staff are from the communities affected by the unrest. They are best placed to know where and how to help people in need, and have been actively responding since the outset.”
Haiti’s unrest began in October 2018 but has worsened in recent weeks, with a series of protests against the high cost of living and ongoing economic uncertainty. The country has struggled to recover from a series of devastating disasters and crises, including 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, an earthquake in October 2018, and cholera outbreaks. A major earthquake in January 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and devastated the capital Port-au-Prince.