Floods increase woes of dispossessed Argentineans

Increased rains in the northwestern part of Argentina this year, has caused unprecedented flooding of the Salado River, severely affecting the provinces of Santa Fe, Entre Rios and Santiago del Estero. Santa Fe City has been the worst hit.
At least 23 people are believed to have died as a result of the flooding and 600 are missing. In all, 140,000 people have been affected --125,000 in Santa Fe City alone. About 24,000 houses have been damaged and 4,000 completely destroyed. Those whose homes escaped the worst damage have started returning, faced with the challenge of cleaning up the debris. However, low-lying parts of Santa Fe are still submerged, with floodwaters still having to be pumped away.

Many of those who had been evacuated were given shelter in the old train station that is in disuse -- old train carriages became their homes. The high unemployment rate caused by Argentina's recent economic crisis, exacerbated the challenges brought on by the flood disaster, as many of the survivors do not have sufficient resources for food, education or health assistance.

The Argentinean government is providing assistance to those hit hardest by the disaster, but due to the current economic woes facing the country, this help is far from adequate. The local Action by Churches Together (ACT) International member, The Argentine Federation of Evangelical Churches (FAIE) responded immediately to the emergency (through the pastoral council of Santa Fe City) providing material assistance and pastoral counseling to people who had been severely traumatized by their experiences. The ACT Coordinating Office disbursed U$35,800 from the Rapid Response Fund to contribute to FAIE's initial response.

As water levels started receding, people could return to their homes to access the damage and start with the clearing of mud, garbage and debris left behind.

Some people who had sought refuge in local schools were later moved to tents that had been donated. This freed up the schools, so that children could return to their classrooms. However, conditions in the 'tent towns' are not ideal, as the land where the tents have been pitched is still muddy. Conditions like these can cause outbreaks of waterborne diseases - a situation that is cause for concern.

In response to the crisis, FAIE, through several ACT members, is providing food assistance to families as well as livestock recovery assistance. Reconstruction materials will also be provided to at least 450 families. In addition, FAIE is providing medical assistance to eight health centers in affected areas.

Photos are available here (html link).