Peru quake survivors continue to face tough conditions

Publié: 4 septembre 2007 0:00 CET

Anna Nelson of the International Federation

Almost three weeks after the devastating earthquake, which struck the coast of central Peru on 15 August, thousands of people continue to sleep outdoors and remain in need of assistance.

The Red Cross Red Crescent is working together with affected communities, the Peruvian authorities and the UN to coordinate moving and distributing essential supplies to those in need, while assessing the longer-term needs of the quake survivors.

More than 500 people were killed and over 1,300 were injured in the disaster, which flattened much of the coastal cities of Chincha, Ica and Pisco. It’s estimated that 80 per cent of Pisco’s buildings and infrastructure were left in ruins, while 70 per cent of Chinca’s buildings are structurally unsound.

In total, more than 37,000 homes were completely destroyed and another 12,700 were damaged. In addition, 83 health care facilities and over 500 schools were affected. Roads, water systems and electricity have been restored to most of Ica City, as crews now focus on the outlying areas.

Last week, the Peruvian government requested 40,000 more tents for those made homeless by the disaster. Even prior to this request, the International Federation and Peruvian Red Cross had already mobilized around 4,000 tents, with more in the pipeline.

“A lot of people remain in a very difficult situation without access to safe drinking water, warm shelter or adequate sanitation,” says Giorgio Ferrario, the International Federation’s regional representative in Lima.

“Some people are reluctant to leave the area where they once lived, because they’re worried about losing what’s left of their possessions or their property, so we’re reaching out to survivors both in relief camps and those who are staying near the ruins of their homes, as well as rural areas.”

Red Cross mobile health teams have been active in the area, along with specialists in water and sanitation.

So far, eight plane loads of relief supplies have made their way to the affected area sent from strategically located warehouses in Panama and Peru. This has included basic first aid and psychosocial support, the distribution of blankets and tarps, and hygiene and cooking items, as well as 40,000 litres of fresh water daily and water storage containers.

During the first 12 days following the disaster, at least 21,500 residents received help from the Red Cross Red Crescent. That number nearly doubled last week to 40,000 survivors assisted, as Peruvian Red Cross relief workers and volunteers sped relief supplies to people throughout the affected provinces.

Time is of the essence, with sand storms and strong winds, known as “Paracas”, causing temperatures in the quake zone to plummet recently, leaving people literally out in the cold.

The differing needs of survivors in urban versus rural areas is presenting unique challenges to this operation as assessment teams reach out to remote locations.

In addition to tents, the International Federation is looking into the appropriateness of alternative solutions, using both plastic sheeting and tarpaulins together with locally-sourced wood, ropes and mats.

The International Federation also has an early recovery team at work in the quake zone to determine the longer-term needs of survivors as they start down the road to recovery.

“We know from long experience in dealing with this type of disaster, in Peru but also in places like Pakistan and Indonesia, that recovery doesn’t happen overnight,” says Ferrario. “It takes time for people to rebuild their lives and it’s important that communities take the lead in determining their own road map for recovery… We plan to continue supporting them in this effort.”