Heavy rains over the past week have affected 5, 000 families in eight of Bolivia’s nine districts. Floods and mudslides have destroyed harvests, damaged houses, blocked roads and caused dengue outbreaks in the districts of Cochabamba, Potosí, La Paz, Beni and Santa Cruz.
According to official figures provided by civil defense authorities and United Nations agencies, more than 35,000 families have been affected since the start of the rainy season in December 2006. Thirty people have died and another two are still missing. The damages in the agricultural sector have now reached 18 million USD and 115,000 cultivated hectares have been completely flooded. The government has asked the international community for assistance to address the crisis.
The Bolivian Red Cross quickly responded to the emergency especially in those districts where humanitarian aid had not yet arrived. Food distributions and needs and damages assessment have been the main activities carried out by the relief teams.
“Even though many local branches are providing basic attention to the families hit by this cold wave, our efforts will be focused on Potosí and distant communities located on the border of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba departments,” explains Bolivian Red Cross President, Abel Peña y Lillo.
In Potosí, the Red Cross will assist 3,075 families in Nor Chichas and Sud Chichas provinces. People in Cotagaita, Vitichi and Tupiza will receive 45-kilo food packages and tools like shovels, hoes and picks that will enable them to start tending their fields again. Dozens of Red Cross volunteers will participate in this operation together with the local emergency committee and the regional government.
Thanks to 50,000 USD donated by the Chinese government, the Bolivian Red Cross will also help communities located on the border of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, a zone which has not received attention by other organizations. Specialized staff deployed in this zone are working on new damages assessments for the Red Cross to decide on how to best use the donation.
Furthermore, the local branch of Tarija carried out a national fundraising campaign in coordination with the local government and the local television channel.
This week, Spanish and German Red Cross delegates will join the Bolivian Red Cross in providing humanitarian aid to northern communities around La Paz - the capital of the country - where more than 2,500 families are affected.
Ruben Romero, a delegate from the Federation’s Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU), based in Panama, has been deployed to La Paz to assist Bolivian Red Cross in preparing their plan of action. An international appeal is being prepared by the Bolivian Red Cross and the International Federation. Funds received will go towards relief goods and shelter for flood victims.
In 2006, the Bolivian Red Cross was especially active in the coordination of humanitarian aid operations in the eastern districts of the country, especially in indigenous communities.