IFRC

Bolivia: floods and landslides leave thousands vulnerable

Published: 10 March 2011 17:33 CET

By Rodolfo Bergantino in Panama and Ana Rosa Boyán in La Paz

Strong emotions in the capital

“I have sharp stomach pains,” were the first words that Saturnina Colque, eight months pregnant, said when she found the Bolivian Red Cross healthcare teams. She had been moving some of her belongings to a communal shelter that serves as temporary home for many families in the department of La Paz.

Saturnina, like thousands of other Bolivians, lost her home under one of the many landslides that have hit the area of Callapa, in the country’s capital, during the past week. Since then, she and her family keep trying to salvage some of their belongings from the rubble.

“We received Doña Saturnina in a critical state: eight months pregnant and sharp stomach pains – it could have been something serious,” explains Dr Reynaldo Ayala, a member of the Bolivian Red Cross healthcare team in the branch of La Paz.

“We examined her and found that she had a cold, high blood pressure, and presented symptoms of depression due to stress and fatigue. After carrying out some tests, we were happy to tell her that her pregnancy was stable. We stayed with her until she was a bit calmer and could be transferred to a hospital for further examination,” says Dr Ayala.

Saturnina’s family is one of more than 2,500 families affected by the landslides in La Paz.

Neighbourly help

Ronald Clavijo is a volunteer relief worker with the Red Cross, who works in the town of Rurrenabaque in the department of Beni, where more than 1,000 families have been affected and some 50 families are currently living in communal shelters.

It was in the town that Ronald met Don José Melgar, one of the many inhabitants who, even though his own life was in danger, is still suffering a feeling of impotence at not being able to help his neighbours, some of whom live in extremely vulnerable areas.
 
“This is the worst disaster I have seen in 30 years. The streets are completely flooded and covered in mud. It is painful to see our neighbours, who are mostly indigenous people who used to live on the banks of the Beni River. They've been displaced and desperately need help, but we can't offer any ourselves, because our own situations are so critical, ” says Don José.

In the department of Beni, there are more than 2,600 affected families, particularly in rural areas such as the town of Rurrenabque, where the Bolivian Red Cross is working round the clock to assist those who most need help.




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