Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP): Flash Appeal 2004 for Bolivia El Chaco Drought

Originally published

A prolonged drought is severely threatening the food security, health and nutritional status of children and adults in the El Chaco region located in Bolivia's southeast. Though this is a chronic drought situation, compounded effects of the past years and the acute nature of this year's drought, put the region at risk of a major humanitarian crisis.

According to two rapid assessments conducted by FAO, UNICEF, WFP and Government institutions (July/August 2004), the drought is affecting an estimated 180,000 people (out of which, 26,000 are children under five years of age) living in rural areas of the 16 municipalities of El Chaco. Seven of these municipalities are considered to be the most affected and in need of urgent assistance to avert further damage: Boyuibe, Camiri, Charagua, Cuevo, Gutierrez, Machareti and Huacaya. In these municipalities, an average of 93% of the maize crop (main food source) has been lost. Food availability is of major concern now and is expected to worsen until the next harvest in May 2005.

With 85% percent of affected families living mainly on rain-fed subsistence agriculture, the drought has undermined their ability to produce enough food to meet daily requirements. The drought has also caused a situation of limited access to safe drinking water, forcing people to risk the spread of disease by using the same source of water as their livestock.

By the time of the two rapid assessments, 65% of those interviewed had consumed their food stocks and 80% of the affected population did not have seeds for the next sowing season (beginning in November 2004). As a result, affected families have resorted to reducing the number of daily meals and heads of households are increasingly migrating in search of a means to mitigate the situation, ultimately exacerbating family vulnerability.

Based on the rapid assessments, the UN Disaster Management Team's (DMT) Joint Flash Appeal seeks US$ 1.8 million to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable persons in the drought-affected areas of El Chaco for a period of seven months (1 November 2004 through to 31 May 2005).

Priority 1 (seven most affected municipalities):

  • Emergency food rations for 42,200 persons (including 13,000 children under five years) (WFP);

  • Supplementary nutritional food rations (biscuits) for 5,000 children aged 6-24 months (UNICEF);

  • Safe drinking water for approximately 12,000 persons (8,500 children and adolescents) - this includes the seven most affected municipalities, plus Lagunillas and Cabezas, for a total of nine municipalities (UNICEF);

  • Distribution of seeds to approximately 11,000 families (FAO).

Priority 2:
  • Safe drinking water and basic sanitation for approximately 24,000 families in nine second priority municipalities (PAHO/WHO);

  • Health care for 180,000 persons (90,000 children and adolescents) in all 16 municipalities of El Chaco;

  • New agricultural technologies that ensure food security for 11,000 families in the seven first priority municipalities (FAO).

As an immediate first step, the DMT joint plan of action focuses its attention on the seven most severely affected municipalities with (1) family food rations, (2) nutritional food rations for children under two years of age, (3) safe drinking water and (4) distribution of seeds. As a close second step, the plan of action focuses on the totality of the 16 municipalities of El Chaco in health and new agricultural technologies.

This Flash Appeal supports the government plan of action in response to the prolonged severe drought. The Government declared El Chaco a disaster area on 05 October 2004 and appealed for international assistance. The members of the DMT that are responding to the emergency through this Joint Flash Appeal are WFP, UNICEF, PAHO/WHO, FAO and UNDP.

Bolivia Flash Appeal 2004
Summary of Requirements - By Appealing Organisation
as of 15 November 2004
Compiled by OCHA on the basis of information provided by the respective appealing organisation.
Appealing Organisation
Original Requirements (US$)
Grand Total
Bolivia Flash Appeal 2004
Summary of Requirements - By Sector
as of 15 November 2004
Compiled by OCHA on the basis of information provided by the respective appealing organisation.
Sector Name
Original Requirements (US$)
Grand Total


2.1 Context

El Chaco is located in the southeast of Bolivia, approximately 1,000 km east of La Paz. It is one of the driest regions of the country, which extends across parts of three Departments (Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca and Tarija) and is comprised of 16 municipalities.

The region covers about 12% of the national territory and has a population of 300,000 people, mostly located in rural areas. About 65% of the population is considered poor according to the 2001 national census. In some municipalities as much as 95% of the population lives in poverty. Most of the rural population is indigenous (Guaraní).

Though the current drought situation in the region is chronic, compounded effects of the past years and the acute nature of this year's drought, put the region at risk of a humanitarian crisis. Maize and beans are the region's main staple food and source of income. Approximately 180,000 people (rural population) of the 300,000 living in the region are affected by the drought, since most of them depend on rain-fed subsistence agriculture. 55,000 people live in seven municipalities that are considered most affected and most vulnerable: Boyuibe, Camiri, Charagua, Cuevo, Gutierrez, Machareti and Huacaya.

According to the results of two rapid assessments conducted by WFP, UNICEF, FAO, and the Government, the above-mentioned seven municipalities report the largest crop failure (more than 80%). These municipalities have lost an average of 93% of their crop. According to WFP, 42,200 people out of the 55,000 living in these seven municipalities are in need of food assistance. Considering that agricultural production is the source of 85% of the total food consumed by these families, the situation becomes more critical. Most of the surveyed households identified food and water as the most urgent need and concern.

The Government declared the drought-affected region of El Chaco a national disaster area on 5 October 2004 and the Ministries of Civil Defense, Health and Agriculture elaborated a Plan of Action. The Plan seeks to respond with food, water, health care and distribution of seeds in the 16 municipalities of El Chaco, and requires US$ 2 million, of which the Government is providing US$ 300,000 (already under execution).

2.2 Humanitarian Consequences

  • The July/August UN and Government joint rapid assessments confirmed that El Chaco is experiencing the worst drought in the past several years. There is an acute shortage of food and water for human and animal consumption.

  • The severe drought and lack of food have prompted heads of families to temporarily migrate to other regions of the country in search of alternative sources of income. Migration is affecting school attendance and community activities such as the maintenance of water systems. Migrations have also resulted in children being left in the care of extended family or with older children of the same family. Malnutrition in children and adults is worsening on a daily basis. For example, according to the National Health Information System (NHIS), global malnutrition in Gutiérrez in children under five is at 43%. In Camiri, it has been confirmed, based on scholar health identification cards, that 30% of primary school children are underweight.

  • Water that is currently available is not adequate for human consumption. Potable water is at critical levels. Potable water systems do not function in the majority of communities. Few communities are attended by trucked water cisterns for emergency water delivery, and those that receive this service receive it infrequently. Affected communities are resorting to water reservoirs (ponds) meant for livestock. Many potable water reservoirs (ponds) are dry and families are forced to walk long distances to neighbouring communities for water collection. The reduced availability of water constitutes an additional burden on women since they need additional time for water collection.

  • Reports issued by NHIS show that the current severe drought in El Chaco has worsened the state of malnutrition of children and adults. The drought is forcing communities to consume unsuitable water compounding health and nutrition problems. In addition, health personnel in El Chaco is barely trained and informed to deal appropriately with health issues in emergency situations such as this one. The poor epidemiological surveillance system is negatively affecting efficient and timely decision-making. The lack of funds, infrastructure and human resources of the health network impede a proper delivery of health services in the vast territory of El Chaco.

  • 65% of families interviewed during the rapid assessments reported having exhausted their food stocks, since access to food is mainly through rain-fed self-production that failed. Of the affected population, 80% does not have seeds for the sowing season that begins this November 2004. It is expected that food security will worsen until the next harvest in May 2005, and that levels of malnutrition and risk of child morbidity and mortality (particularly those under-two) will increase. In addition, livestock, an important alternative source of food, is dying because of the lack of water, threatening the production of milk and meat.

  • To deal with the current crisis, the Government created an ad-hoc committee composed of the Ministries of Defence, Health, Agriculture and Public Works. The purpose of the committee is to coordinate a response to the emergency with UN agencies and the donor community. The current economic situation of Bolivia limits the Government contribution to US$ 300,000 out of a total estimated need of US$ 2 million.


3.1 Food

  • To stabilise and prevent a further deterioration in the livelihoods of affected families through Food for Work and Food for Training activities.

  • To ensure adequate food consumption for the most vulnerable groups (families with pregnant and nursing mothers, children under five years and women-headed households).

  • To distribute family and child food rations to reduce malnutrition, as well as migration of heads of households.

  • To distribute maize and bean seeds for the next sowing season beginning in November 2004.

  • To support activities, through Food for Work and Food for Training, to improve/restore water supply facilities, agricultural production and health/ nutrition skills.

3.2 Water
  • To improve and extend provision of safe drinking water by means of trucked water cisterns, family water containers and water filters;

  • To reduce the spread of waterborne diseases and death of livestock;

  • To assure water quality and sanitation.

3.3 Health
  • To support the health network to strengthen the epidemiological surveillance system at the community level so that problematic cases are quickly identified and referred to appropriate health services;

  • To support community training in water and sanitation through the Ministry of Health and the technical school of basic sanitation of Gutierrez;

  • To train local health personnel in norms and procedures in nutrition of children under five years of age, breastfeeding and child feeding.

3.4 Agriculture
  • To develop a sustainable agricultural programme for El Chaco together with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Association of Guaraní Peoples (APG);

  • To support the Ministry of Agriculture to replicate efficient means of (1) corn and bean production, (2) construction of water reservoirs (ponds) for irrigation and animal use, (3) animal health, and (4) harvest management;

  • To support early warning systems that track climate change.



  • Table I: Summary of Requirements - By Appealing Organisation and By Sector

  • 2.1 CONTEXT

  • 3.1 FOOD
  • 3.2 WATER
  • 3.3 HEALTH



  • 5.1 FOOD
  • 5.2 WATER
  • 5.3 HEALTH

  • Table II: List of Projects - By Appealing Organisation
  • Table II: List of Projects - By Sector


Note: The full text of this appeal is available on-line in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format and may also be downloaded in zipped MS Word format.

MAP - Bolivia: Drought - Situation map

Full Original Flash Appeal [pdf* format] [zipped MS Word format]

* Get the Adobe Acrobat Viewer (free)

For additional copies, please contact:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH - 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Tel.: (41 22) 917.1972
Fax: (41 22) 917.0368

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit