Bolivia: Forest fire Emergency | Situation Report No. 1 of the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) (27 August 2019)

Highlights

  • The department of Santa Cruz declared as departmental emergency due to forest fires (August 16).

  • President Morales announced the formation of an "Environmental Emergency Cabinet" with the participation of the ministries of the Presidency,
    Government, Defense, Environment and Water,
    Rural Development and Land and Health to deal with the fires of Chiquitania and the East Bolivian (August 21).

  • President Morales welcomed voluntary international assistance that contributes to fire control (August 25).

  • 521 thousand hectares of forest and grassland are destroyed

  • 1,817 families affected in nine municipalities

  • The Resident Coordinator has activated the HCT.

  • UN Agencies and HCT members have expressed willingness to mobilize economic and technical resources to assist mainly in post-fire care and recovery process.

  • The Government informed to be able to cover any humanitarian needs, so the needs expressed are for fire forests first response.

Situation Overview

Based on information received from the Ministry of Environment and Water (MMAyA) on August 26th , 521 thousand hectares are affected by fire forest in the Chiquitania region, Department of Santa Cruz, and 274 hectares of crops affected. Medias inform that the fires destroyed 738 thousand hectares. The presence of heat sources is 497. The greatest heat sources are located in the municipalities of Puerto Suarez (208), San Matías (88), Concepción (43) and San José de Chiquitos (41).

The Forestry and Land Control and Social Control Authority (ABT) indicated that between 1 st and 18th August 17 thousand heat sources were registered, of which 11 thousand were located in the Department of Santa Cruz, destroying in short period 471 thousand hectares of forests and grasslands. The Bolivia Documentation and Information Center (CEDIB) warned in 2016 through a study that Bolivia loses 350 thousand hectares of forest annually due to legal and clandestine deforestation.

The department of Santa Cruz declared a disaster on August 16th due to forest fires (D.D. No. 287/19). The humanitarian impact as of August 26th, identifies 1817 affected families, in nine municipalities of the department of Santa Cruz. The most affected municipalities considering the number of families are Robore (546), San Rafael (400), San José de Chiquitos (364) and San Ignacio de Velasco (350). Eight affected families with eight homes destroyed are reported.
The Minister of Defense informed that the fires near the communities have been attended and 40 people are evacuated. Also, heat and fire sources tend to decrease between 40 and 70%, however, air pollution is present in the affected areas, and require suspension of school activities in Robore municipality.

Registered forest fires will affect livelihoods, so a multisectoral assessment to evaluate the impact will be necessary to carry out, once the fires are under control.

Since Friday, August 23th, the Boeing 747 “supertanker” aircraft with capacity of 70,000 liters of water is operating from the “Viru Viru” Airport to support controlling fires.

More than 3700 people from ministries, government, army, police, firefighters, volunteers and other instances are involved in fire forest response.

President Morales on August 25th welcomed the voluntary international assistance that contributes to fire control.

Based on President Morales decision the Foreign Ministry informed on several expressions of support from different countries and organizations. The Chancellor said that air support is mainly required to fight the fire, since there are field personal to support the work. He also informed that Peru will send two helicopters Mi 17 to support the fire fighting in Chiquitania.

Additionally, he mentioned that White Helmets from Argentina is willing support with specialized technical, as well as Chile and the US for technical advice. Also, he indicated that on 26th august the Bolivian ambassador in UN will meet with the UN secretariat to discuss on possibly support from UNS organizations.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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