Argentina: Floods in Santa Fe Province Appeal No. 10/03 Final Report


Appeal No. 10/03; Launched on: 6 May 2003 for three months for CHF 607,000 to assist 8,000 beneficiaries. Operations extended to 31 October 2003. Appeal coverage: 103%
Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: CHF 50,000

The final financial report will be issued shortly as soon as the books for the relevant period are closed.

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During the second week of April 2003, several days of intense rain hit the province of Santa Fé and other provinces in northern Argentina, further aggravating a precarious situation that had been ongoing since late 2002 as a result of heavy rainfall. At the end of the month, after continued rain, the Salado River burst its banks, causing the worst flooding to hit the region in a century.

Within a few hours, one third of the provincial capital city of Santa Fé and a vast area of the province were flooded. The water entered through a barrier designed to protect the city from such an occurrence, 2.5 kilometres of which were incomplete. Houses, shops, hospitals and other public buildings were flooded by the water that in some areas of the city reached seven meters in height. The barrier, which was intended to protect the city, now trapped the water so that flood levels remained high for some time. The barrie r had to be destroyed in several areas in order to allow the water to flow out of the city. The electricity was cut off in several areas of Santa Fé and its surroundings for a number of days, causing security and logistical problems. On the outskirts of the capital, farms, factories, crops and cattle were also affected by the flooding. Several access roads and bridges leading to Santa Fé were impassable or blocked by authorities for security reasons, slowing down early rescue operations.

Some 2,000 beneficiaries were rescued by the ARC during the first hours of the floods.

A total of 22 casualties and 500 missing persons were reported during the first hours of the floods, when 30,000 people were forced to leave their homes. A state of emergency was declared in 35 communities, with General Obligado, Monte Vera, San Cristóbal, San Justo, San Javier, Garay, Las Colonias, General López, San Martín and the city of Santa Fé being the worst hit areas of the province. Some 150,000 people had to leave their houses and properties and 26,000 houses had to be abandoned, 2,000 of which were completely destroyed. Due to the risk of vandalism and the extremely tense situation, a 6 pm curfew was put into place in the city of Santa Fé for 15 days.

This curfew, which only excluded rescue and relief teams, was extended for a month for those beneficiaries living in evacuation centres.

More than 400 organized and make-shift evacuation centres were established in the city of Santa Fé and other smaller towns, most of which had precarious health and hygiene conditions. These centres hosted more than 75,000 people during the height of the emergency. Conditions in evacuation centres slowly improved and after 45 days the number of beneficiaries hosted in these centres stabilized at around 5,000 individuals living in 68 centres, including 9 large centres. Most of the other people affected by the floods found accommodation in the homes of relatives or friends.

The response of Argentine Red Cross (ARC) to the disaster was immediate: during the first 24 hours after the flooding occurred volunteers from the Santa Fé and San Cristóbal branches of the ARC rescued more than 2,000 people in the city of Santa Fé, despite the fact that the branch premises were lying underwater. From the beginning of the emergency, the ARC worked together with other humanitarian agencies and local institutions of the interagency emergency unit that was set up in the offices of the local Ministry of Health.

Due to the gravity of the situation in the region, the ARC requested the assistance of the Federation. In response, the Federation launched an international appeal at the beginning of May, the objective of which was to bring relief assistance to 8,000 beneficiaries in the form of food, medicines, hygiene kits and other non-food items for a period of three months. The appeal also aimed at providing psycho-social assistance to disaster victims, facilitating the return of evacuees to their homes, and promoting sanitary conditions.

In order to meet new needs expressed by beneficiaries, the plan of action was readjusted in mid June, and the programme was extended until the end of October. The last relief kits were purchased and distributed to beneficiaries during the first week of November due to certain delays in the suppliers' delivery procedures and to the fact that distribution had to be interrupted during local elections in September so that the ARC would not be identified with any political agendas.

The relief operation benefited from a major demonstration of solidarity throughout the country. Private citizens, enterprises, and civil associations contributed to collect thousands of tonnes of food and non-food items. These items were distributed by the National Society to disaster victims not covered by this appeal and were also used to make up the kits that were included in the appeal.

In cooperation with the German Red Cross, the ARC is currently running two ECHO funded projects aimed at partially guaranteeing the continuation of the assistance provided by this appeal. The projects, which will terminate at the end of January 2004, consist of constructing 400 pre-fabricated houses in 5 areas of Santa Fé for an estimated 2,000 beneficiaries, and providing food assistance to 17,000 beneficiaries in the north of the country.

The remaining balance on the Santa Fé floods operation will be used in order to set up and equip two emergency rooms, one in the branch of Santa Fé and one in the headquarters, facilitating monitoring and rapid response in the event of a disaster. These facilities will also be used for such events as training courses, planning meetings and conferences. Furthermore, the Argentine Red Cross' capacity for disaster response will be strengthened through improvements to the regional warehouse in Santa Fé and the purchase of relief equipment.

Therefore, as a result of this project, both the headquarters and the branch of Santa Fé will have both the facilities and necessary equipment to improve coordination and response to emergencies at regional and national level.


The Federation's sub regional office in Buenos Aires has been assisting the ARC in the management of the operation since the outset with both staff and resources, including the allocation of CHF 50,000 from the disaster relief emergency fund (DREF) in order to respond to the first phase of the emergency. In addition, the international appeal was drawn up with the support of the disaster management delegate from the Federation's Regional Delegation in Lima, the Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU), and an assessment team made up of representatives of the ARC, the Federation, the Spanish Red Cross and regional intervention team (RIT) member.

The Federation worked together with the ARC and other key partners, supporting the National Society and assisting it in developing its network of contacts in the area. Federation and ARC staff participated in coordination meetings both at the branch and headquarters level.

The ARC achieved a high level of coordination and cooperation with strategic actors and partners involved in the operation, such as the Ministry of Health, the Civil Defence, UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), OXFAM, and other local and international institutions. The military also made an important contribution to the operation in terms of logistics and transportation of relief items.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action -- objectives, progress, impact

From the onset of the disaster, the Argentine Red Cross activated its Emergency Operations Centre at the National Society's headquarters in Buenos Aires and in the Santa Fé branch. Throughout the emergency period, regular coordination meetings were held with the Federation, operational partners and local institutions.

An assessment team composed of experts in disaster management, logistics and health, as well as information and reporting staff, from the Argentine Red Cross, the Federation, PADRU and the Spanish Red Cross were mobilized to assess damage and needs and to work on a plan of action.

Within the first 48 hours after the flooding first occurred, 6 teams of volunteers with technical equipment reached the city of Santa Fé, together with Federation and PADRU experts. Among the ARC volunteers were lifeguards and nurses from the Red Cross School of Nursing, carrying with them first aid materials and radio-communication equipment, as well as boats and vehicles for rescue operations. While teams of volunteers were rescuing affected individuals, other ARC volunteers were operating in evacuation centres, receiving beneficiaries and providing assistance to pregnant women day and night. Almost every one of the 76 ARC branches participated in the relief operations, collecting donations for evacuees or sending volunteers to the field. More than 1,000 volunteers worked in Santa Fé, while almost 5,000 were mobilized in other branches.

The National Societies of Austria, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States contributed to this appeal, while the German and Spanish Red Cross Societies contributed bilaterally, supported by their governments, in close coordination and cooperation with the ARC. Other donations came from the Embassies of the Netherlands and New Zealand in Buenos Aires and local donors.

Relief distribution of food and basic non-food items

ARC relief distribution within the appeal targeted the most vulnerable evacuees affected by the floods. The generous contribution of relief items from all sectors of the Argentine population permitted the ARC to exceed the mandate of this appeal, providing more assistance and reaching more beneficiaries. Teams of ARC volunteers surveyed and assisted a total of 436 official and make-shift evacuation centres, hosting 73,006 evacuees. Additional centres that were not included in the appeal also benefited from public donations gathered by ARC branches around the country.

Identification of the food and non-food items that were required by beneficiaries was carried out by Federation and ARC staff, taking into consideration local dietary habits and the SPHERE guidelines of minimum standards of intervention. The assessment of beneficiaries and the distribution of relief items were carried out by ARC volunteers and were based on the same criteria.

A readjustment of the plan of action was approved in mid June in order to better respond to the needs of those beneficiaries who had to remain in evacuation centres because their homes were destroyed, and of those returning to devastated communitie s. Following a needs assessment that was carried out together with beneficiaries, gas stoves, furniture, kitchen sets and transistor radios were added to the list of items to be provided. During the first month of the operation, the ARC used five warehouses for receiving and distributing relief items. A single

Children and elderly people were prioritized for depot was rented, in which 60 volunteers were working on a daily assistance during this appeal. basis, assisted by 120 high school students from Santa Fé.

Objective 1: to provide humanitarian assistance in the form of food for three months, together with a kitchen set and hygiene kit for 8,000 persons affected by the floods.

Less than 20 hours after the onset of the emergency, 10 tonnes of food were sent from the Argentine Red Cross central warehouse and distributed immediately upon arrival in Santa Fé. This first donation provided 2,500 beneficiaries in 4 evacuation centres with relief items for 1 week and assisted those people who remained on the rooftops of their homes during the first weeks after the flooding. Immediate emergency relief items were provided through the Federation's Disaster Relie f Emergency Fund and public donations to the Argentine Red Cross.

The exact number of beneficiaries hosted in evacuation centres was constantly changing throughout the course of the operation because people tended to return to their homes as soon as possible. During the 6 months of the operation, ARC volunteers distributed a total of 1,935 family food packages provided by the appeal to 9,675 persons in 9 official centres, 10 make-shift centres, and the rural community of Monte Vera, on the outskirts of Santa Fé. Deliveries of relief items were also made to individuals who were affected by the floods but were not staying in evacuation centres.

The content of the food packages was determined by the Federation and the ARC. Each 37.3-kilogram package, which was intended to meet the nutritional needs of five people for one month, included the following items:

Quantity per package
Total distributed
4 kg
7,740 kg
6 kg
11,620 kg
Wheat flour
3 kg
5,805 kg
Maize flour
3 kg
5,805 kg
Tomato sauce
3 litres
5,805 litres
0.5 kg
967,5 kg
3 litres
5,805 litres
Soya beans
2 kg
3,870 kg
Canned peas
3 cans
5,805 cans
Soup base
24 units
46,440 units
Powder milk
5.8 kg
11,223 kg
Yerba mate (tea)
3 kg
5,805 kg
2 kg
3.870 kg
1 kg
1,935 kg
37.3 kg
72,165.5 kg

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