Floods in Paraguay leave 200,000 people affected

Published: 23 June 2014 18:23 CET

According to the National Emergency Service, 15,000 families are now living in shelters or with family members.

The Parana and Paraguay rivers have overflowed and are affecting thousands of families in the departments of Ñeembucú, Alto Parana, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, as well as the municipalities of Ayolas and Asuncion.

National government authorities have been responding to heavy rains since early on this year, but the situation has been made difficult due to the intensity of the rains and the number of people affected, in the municipality of Asuncion alone. As the waters of the Paraguay river continue to rise more families are moving to some 60 government shelters to seek refuge.

Families on the edge of the Parana river have been facing the almost not stop rain since March of this year. The river has not shown mercy to these families that have not been able to recover from the damages and are now seriously affected by the worsening situation. In the department of Ñeembucú alone some 2,000 families living close to the river will have to be relocated to shelters. The situation faced by these communities is especially challenging due to the recurrence of these floods that wash away livelihoods and isolate families when roadways are blocked, and impede the delivery of food and water which can only be delivered by air or water and can take up to 8 hours.

In response, the Paraguay Red Cross (PRC) has joined government authorities and other local and regional humanitarian actors in assessment activities. Together humanitarian actors plan to deliver food parcels, clothing and blankets to the most affected and vulnerable areas.

Severe flooding in Paraguay quickly brings back memories to many families when they recall the floods that occurred some 20 years ago. “The last time the river came up and we had to leave our houses was in 1983. I never thought I would live through something like this with my wife and four children who were so small. For two days we lived with the water at our feet before we could find somewhere to go,” commented Rodolfo Vega Silva, who is staying at the shelter in Viñas Cue.

Since the beginning of the rains the Paraguayan Red Cross in its auxiliary support to government authorities has distributed clothes and food to thousands of affected families. However  as the rains have continued, covering basic needs for recovery continues to be a challenge. “We don’t have anything to eat, or to feed our families. My husband is a fisherman and with the river overflowed he can't fish and we don’t have money to buy anything. We need the government and other institutions to help, please, everything has been left in our homes,” said Mercedes Aguilera who is also staying at the shelter in Vinas Cue.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies’ Pan-American Disaster Response Unit has recently deployed field staff to support the Paraguay Red Cross and local authorities during damage and needs assessments. As a member of the largest humanitarian network in the world Paraguay Red Cross has also received direct support from the Finnish Red Cross who made funds available to distribute blankets, tarpaulins, and jerry cans for water collection  and distribution to some 900 families.

For the second time this year the IFRC has activated a Regional Response Unit specialized in Water and Sanitation to support the National Society’s response operation to cover some 1,000 families in Asunción and Ñeembucú. IFRC is also supporting this operation through its Global Logistics Service which is mobilizing Water and Sanitation kits to assist some 2,000 people with hygiene promotion activities.

“In these types of emergencies it is essential that we ensure adequate support to the Paraguay Red Cross to enable them to deliver assistance in the area of water and sanitation. During flooding like this early action in hygiene promotion and distribution of clean water can help prevent disease and save many more lives during the months following the floods which are often the most challenging in terms of public health, especially when we consider the prevalence of diseases like dengue and now chinkungunya, ” concluded Omar Robinson IFRC Water and Sanitation specialist.

To support the beginning of the operation IFRC has released 275,000 CHF from its Disaster Emergency Relief Funds, an amount that may increase following the evaluations now taking place. “We have been monitoring this situation since early on this year, and given recent developments we have activated our regional resources in order to support the Paraguay Red Cross in its efforts to deliver on the most urgent needs of those affected,” said Benoit Porte IFRC’s PADRU Coordinator.