Argentina: Floods DREF Operation No. MDRAR003 Final Report


The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster responsesystem andincreases theabilityof nationalsocieties torespond todisasters.

Summary: CHF 127,836 (USD 116,267 or EUR 84,257) was allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund(DREF) to support the Argentine Red Cross (ARC) in delivering assistance to 2,200 people severely affected by flooding.

Approximately 17,000 families were affected and 11,600 people were isolated in the Rivadavia and Santa Victoria Este communities in the province of Salta, due to the floods that affected Northern Argentinain March 2008.

The ARC responded to immediate emergency needs by providing essential relief items and pre-hospital care, as well as support for theaffectedfamilies through early recovery activities. Delays caused by political and social tensions in the agricultural sector led to a four-month extension of the operation, and the inclusion of new objectives in the ARC Plan of Action that include additional relief items, the extension of psychosocial support (PSP) and the inclusion of activities to stimulate the reactivation of local livelihoods.

The operation was completed at the end of July 2008, reaching 300 families (approx. 2,200 people given the large size of families in indigenous communities) with direct distributions of relief and recovery items, as well as an estimated 5,500 people with community out-reach services, including psychosocial support and health promotion activities.

The situation

Constant and heavy rains during Januray 2008 led to severe flooding in the Salta province, causing the Bermejo, Pilocmayzo and Carapari rivers to overflow in the beginning of March. The rivers affected the Aguaray and Embarcación provinces with flood water, temporarily blocking pathways and roads, and damaging bridges, leaving communities isolated. The flooding of the Pilcomayo River exacerbated the effects of heavy rainfall that occurred earlier in theyear in neighbouring country of Bolivia. The capital city of Salta was directly affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding in particular the sectors of La Paz, 1ra Junta, Solidaridad, Libertad and to a lesser extent communities in the northern part of the city.

Approximately 17,000 families were affected and 11,600 people were isolated and unable to access outside assistance. The indigenous families from the Wichi ethnic group residing close to the river basin in east Bermejo and from the north of the province including Santa Victoria Este were particularly affected. The police andfire departments evacuated affected families from the flooded sectors in Salta, relocating them to evacuation centres where medical services were provided by thelocal hospital. In Embarcación, in the south of the San Martin province, approximately 600 people from the neighbourhoods of San Juan, El Tráfico and Tierras Fiscales were relocated to three shelters during one month. In addition,103 families (618 people) voluntarily evacuated the affected areas to the centresset up by the authorities.

Although general services did not collapse, approximately 45,000 people from the Aguaray and Salvador Mazza regions were left without water due to damages to the water purification plant caused by mud and rain. Additional significant damages included the closing of major and minor roads. While major roads have since been reopened, infrastructure remains affected,in particular bridges and smaller accessroutes.

Local authorities responded to the emergency with support from the national government, prioritizing the distribution of basic humanitarian assistance and emergency health services to those affected. The Provincial Secretariat for the Interior (Secretariado Provincial del Interior - PSI) distributed food items to families in the evacuation centres, and later directly to communities once the families had returned home. The PSI also supported community kitchens, as well as provided support in the distribution of family kits, clothes and footwear. The ARC and local authorities re-established and increased local medical assistance in addition to services provided directly to the shelters. The national government initially allocated USD 1,000,000 to theemergency response with several housing projects and repairs for the water treatment plant under development to respond to long term need safter the emergency.

Identified needs varied considerably due to the distinct geographic areas affected and the differing levels of vulnerability among families prior to the floods. The most immediate priorities identified by the ARC, government authorities and community-based organizations included the provision of food and non-food relief items, the provision of health services including psychosocial support, the improvement of sanitary conditions primarily through the cleaning of houses, as well as support to families in re-establishing their livelihoods affected by the loss of crops, livestock and tools.

In May 2008 social and political tensions between the government and the agricultural sector initially caused delays in the distribution of aid to the affected communities. Furthermore, general strikes in the transportation and agricultural sectors, along with a shortage of fuel, lead to sharp price increases and the shortage of basic items. This delayed the emergency response and resulted in modifications to the implementation timeframe.