Women and children die in severe Peruvian winter

Published: 25 July 2003 0:00 CET

Cristina Estrada

A major Red Cross campaign gets underway today in the high Andes of Peru to bring assistance to communities suffering from a severe cold spell which has led to the deaths of 105 children from pneumonia and has killed at least 25 pregnant women this month.

“Let’s keep a brother from the South warm” is the slogan of the Peruvian Red Cross fundraising campaign in response to the deaths and the fact that more than 40,000 cases of acute respiratory infection have been registered.

The cold front hitting the south of the country has also caused severe cattle losses, withered crops and destroyed homes. Several communities are cut off with no electricity or phones. The Arctic conditions have been worsened in recent days by intense winds.

Temperatures in the high Andean areas of Puno, one of the provinces worst-affected, have plummeted to minus 20 centigrade. In this province alone more than 600 cases of pneumonia have been registered, many of them are children under five years old. In another province Cusco, over the last 72 hours, 25 pregnant women have died as a result of the freezing temperatures.

“Urgent needs are warm clothes, boots, medicines, food with high levels of carbohydrates, shovels to remove the snow and building materials,” says Richard Medina, relief national coordinator of the Peruvian Red Cross.

“With this initiative, we would like to bring our support, not only with goods, but also the moral support of knowing that we are there to assist,” he adds. The campaign will last approximately one month and requires funding and additional volunteer support,” Medina adds.

No complete assessment of the damage has yet been carried as many communities have been cut off by snow and ice at 4,000 meters above sea-level. The Peruvian Red Cross is sending an evaluation team in the coming days.

The health authorities have launched a dissemination campaign with prevention messages including recommendations on how to care and detect the first symptoms of related illnesses.

In addition to this cold front, during the last days, intense winds due to a change in atmospheric pressure have affected the provinces of Puno and Arequipa, leaving dozens of families homeless, hundreds of people affected, several schools damaged and hundreds of animals dead.

A similar situation affected the south of Peru exactly one year ago, when, based on Civil Defence data, 26,000 persons were affected, causing significant damage to agriculture.

Related Links:

Peru: appeals, updates and reports
Peruvian Red Cross