International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action


Programme for Flood Vulnerability Reduction and Development of Early Warning Systems in Minor River Basins in Central America
Organization of American States (OAS), Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment (USDE)

The objective of this programme is to provide training and support for ordinary citizens, professionals from the public and private sectors, and non-governmental organizations from local communities on flood vulnerability assessment and the development of mitigation measures, monitoring of hydrological and meteorological phenomena, the implementation of early warning systems, and the design of flood preparedness and response plans. The programme covers the following activities:

  1. Assessing the vulnerability to floods of the economic and social infrastructure in small river basins.
  2. Reducing the vulnerability to floods and adopting mitigation measures to reduce damage to economic and social infrastructure.
  3. Carrying out hydrological analyses and designing and implementing river-level monitoring and forecasting systems.
  4. Monitoring rainfall and river levels to forecast floods and issue early warnings for local communities.
  5. Planning for emergencies, raising the level of preparedness at the local level, and improving flood response.

Since 1995, five stages of the programme have been implemented. Stage I, a pilot attempt in Honduras, was carried out with the support of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO). It focused on developing basic methods for designing a simple early-warning system with community participation to reduce the risk of floods in small river basins.

Stage II, once again with ECHO’s support, strove to develop a national model in Honduras. A team of professionals was trained in vulnerability assessment, mitigation planning, hydrological analysis, flood forecasting, monitoring and warning, using the methodology developed during Stage I. In addition, community preparedness and response activities were carried out.

During Stage III, training was expanded to the rest of Central America with ECHO’s support, standardizing the methodology and the technical training material produced by the Program. At this stage, the following regional institutions became involved: the Center for Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC), the Regional Hydraulic Resources Committee, and the Federation of Central American Isthmus Municipalities (FEMICA). Moreover, a tutoring program was set up with the collaboration of the United States Association of State Flood Plain Managers (ASFPM).

During Stage IV, in light of the El Niño phenomenon and once again with ECHO’s support, the national teams of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama focused on a pilot project in a minor river basin in each country. National teams of professionals were assembled in each country to produce the technical information required for the Program to go forward.

The government of Ireland is supporting Stage V, currently in execution in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, in an attempt to apply the lessons learned during Hurricane Mitch. During the second part of this stage, activities are being coordinated with the Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF), a US NGO, and Ayuda en Acción, a Spanish non-profit organization. In addition, technical support is being provided to the Pan-American Foundation for Development and the World Bank to carry out Programme activities in Honduras and Nicaragua.

This Program is unique in the region in developing “low-tech” systems that are directly managed by the community to provide warning of impending floods and provide information to local governments to plan their development activities while reducing vulnerability to floods.

At the regional level, a proposal has been drafted to establish a Central American platform for linking the institutions mentioned above and others in implementing the Program across the Isthmus. Other national and international institutions are also being encouraged to participate.

For more information about this Program, please visit the Natural Hazards Project of the OAS Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment (USDE) Website at o write to