Bolivia + 6 more

ODPC-WFP Emergency Situation Report on Latin America and the Caribbean 25 Jan 2004

Situation Report
Originally published

1) Significant Events

On 9 January, the most intense 14-hour rainfall of the last 60 years left approximately 240mm of water over the city of Trinidad, capital city of the department of Beni. The storm flooded more than 90% of the city, affecting some 45,000 people. WFP and UNICEF joint assessment mission reported that among the most affected are 12,000 people -of which 5,500 are children.

Some 11,316 persons (1,886 families) victims of the floods are still living in 35 shelters in the city of Trinidad. Shelters, mostly public schools, do not have enough basic services (drinking water and sanitation). They are now being supported with WFP and UNICEF food. If rains will keep slowing down, it is expected that most of these families will return to their homes. However, about 2,500 people living in neighborhoods that are still under water will remain in the shelters. UNDMT is trying to mobilize resources to establish a camp for these families.

In the department of Cochabamba floods also affected several regions. There are about 237 families whose houses collapsed, and other 791 families with seriously affected crop lands.

Meanwhile, another flood hit the city of Cobija, Capital City of the Department of Pando, has affected about 200 families. There is no land transportation to Cobija during the rainy season (December to April). Any assistance should be sent by plane.

The number of cases of the Dengue disease is growing. National authorities are monitoring the disease and providing medicines as well as spraying the city of Trinidad.

2) Implementation

The NGO Caritas and the local authorities are now providing WFP and UNICEF food to 12,000 flood victims in Trinidad. Family rations are being distributed, and families are being encouraged to rehabilitate their houses, roads, and basic services in their neighborhoods. For the people that cannot return to their houses -because they are still flooded- food is being prepared in the shelters. Resources from CP-10159, Activity 1, were used for this emergency. UNICEF complemented WFP food basket with 20 MT of sugar, canned fish, and pasta. All UNICEF's local food procurement was carried out with WFP assistance. Transportation from the nearest WFP warehouse in Santa Cruz (around 600 km from Trinidad) was provided by the Civil Defense. Contributions of OCHA and the Canadian International Cooperation will be used to provide hygiene kits, mattresses, clothes, and other needed items


1) Significant Events

New displacements have been reported in the department of Antioquia, where at least 15 families were displaced to the urban areas of San Carlos municipality, due to clashes between Colombian army and illegal armed groups. In Urrao, northwest Antioquia, individual displacements were reported apparently for the same reason

Displacements have been reported in the department of Bolivar, where approximately 240 people were forced to move out of rural areas near the municipality of Arenal, due to rebel groups' threats. At least 84 people from this group have temporarily settled in the municipality of Micoahumado.

Olara Otunnu, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative for children and armed conflict, said the time had come for the Security Council to take concrete action against groups using child soldiers --defined by the United Nations as youths 17 and under. Annan's report that was released on 16 January, listed 15 countries (included Colombia) in which governments or rebel groups -- or both -- are recruiting and using child soldiers in combat.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's top envoy in Colombia, James Lemoyne, urged Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the rebels to take steps toward a prisoner exchange accord to revive peace talks. Lemoyne said he still holds out hope that a negotiated solution to the civil war could be found.

The yellow fever outbreak reported by health authorities has killed eight people and spread fear throughout the Colombian Caribbean coast. According to statistics from the Social Welfare Ministry, twenty-seven (27) people have been diagnosed with the disease since December 28, 2003. All the victims were infected in the Sierra Nevada region and nearby areas of the Departments of Magdalena, Cesar, and Guajira. Colombian Government received 1.5 million doses of vaccines on 24 January to face the situation.

2) Security

Clashes between rival illegal armed groups and also with polices has been reported in several Departments causing deaths and injuries:

  • a) Municipality of La Llanada, department of Nariño, attacked -three police killed, homes destroyed with explosives and one rebel was captured;
  • b) 40 people have been killed in clashes between illegal armed groups in the Guajira province, northern Colombia;
  • c) On 22 January, four rebels and one soldier died in clashes between Colombian army and illegal armed groups in Frontino, east Antioquia.
  • d) Five men were killed and seven more were wounded inside a bar in the municipality of Anza, department of Antioquia, by members of an illegal armed group using a grenade launcher.
A car bomb blew up in the northeastern department of Arauca, as soldiers attempted to defuse the device. One soldier died in the explosion.

On 21 January, 50 presumed rebels, members of an illegal armed group, were captured by Colombian police in Medellin, department of Antioquia. Apparently, two of these men are top level members of an illegal group.

The Colombian government is investigating reports that more than 20 indigenous people were killed in the remote jungles of eastern Colombia. The governor's office, in the eastern department of Vichada, sent officials to the village of Palmarito to investigate reports of fighting there last week.

3) Implementation

WFP Colombia distributed 91.5MT of food in three departments for approximately 16,000 beneficiaries. These commodities were distributed to Food for Work activities of PRRO 10158 and directed to the construction of school restaurants for displaced children, temporary housing for displaced families, and skills training.


1) Significant Events

Tungurahua Volcano: The volcanic activity continues with constant ash emissions that have reached up to 1000 meters height above the crater. 30,000 people in the nearby areas have been affected by ash fall and are concerned on the effects this will continue to have on their crops and their living conditions.

The local authorities have requested support from the central government, international institutions and local NGOs, to carry on the activities already defined in the contingency plan (assistance, rehabilitation and prevention).

Eruption Sangay Volcano (located 195 km south of Quito most active): The eruption of the volcano was first registered on 14 January; the ash fall extended over 40 km northeast, including Morona Santiago, the closest city to the volcano. According to the medical staff, the ashes have reached Puyo and surrounded areas causing acute laryngitis, eye irritation and cough in residents, especially children.

The volcanic material has also cloaked the sewage system because the rain had washed away the ashes from the roof and sidewalks.

2) Implementation

A Quick Action Project (QAP) for Emergencies amounting US$722,635 was submitted to ODPC aiming to provide assistance to the affected communities from the Tungurahua Volcano ash falls, the floods of the coastal area and Colombian refugees. The intervention is planned to last a year and with about 23,000 beneficiaries.


1) Significant events

The build up to this year presidential elections set for 21 March continues to gain steam with heavy campaigning throughout the country. The elections are expected to be the most intensely contested since the signing of the peace accords in 1992 which ended the 12 year long civil war.

The Ministry of Health has announced 300 new cases of Dengue fever with 12 suspicious cases of the fatal hemorrhaging strain of the virus. It is feared that another outbreak will hit the nation this year; in 2003 outbreaks of dengue fever infected 3,679 people.

2) Security

Sporadic pre-electoral violence between supporters of the ruling right wing party ARENA and the left wing party FMLN continues to mar the build up to the elections; local UNSECOORD and UNDP officials are closely monitoring the situation. The departments of Sonsonate, La Paz, Usulutan, and San Miguel remain at Security Phase II with the rest of the country at Phase I.

3) Implementation

WFP continues to closely monitor the nutritional situation in the coffee crisis hit departments of Ahuachapan, Sonsonate and La Libertad; field monitors are visiting an average of 4 municipalities per week. Operations for the PRRO 10212 continue to expand as disaster mitigation projects are incorporated in the Eastern departments of San Miguel, Morazan and La Union. Three local NGOs focusing on the creation of productive assets will be the newest addition of Implementing Partners joining Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam America/FUMA, Save the Children America and The Swiss Red Cross whom are already working with WFP under the PRRO 10212.

4) Logistics

During the reporting period 690 metric tonnes of CSB arrived in country and 1,089 metric tonnes of Maize arrived at Port Santo Tomas in Guatemala. The maize will be shipped overland to El Salvador EDP's in the coming days; both shipments are part of the first tranche of USAID contributions slated for the PRRO 10212.


1) Significant Events

On 14 January, Oscar Berger, a former mayor of Guatemala City, was sworm as new president as well as the the158 congressmen. The new government has repeatedly declared that hunger and malnutrition will be prioritized in its agenda and to work with close collaboration with UN agencies. Mr. Andrés Botrán was appointed as the commissioner of the "Front Against Hunger". This flagship programme is a government coordinating mechanism which will lead government efforts in the fight against hunger. It will also seek the support of civil society, private sector, and international organizations in reducing malnutrition rates in the country. The newly appointed authorities have already requested the support of WFP for this initiative, which will be launched in the coming weeks

Preliminary results of the 4th National Agricultural Census were presented. According to this census, the number of individual farmers and cooperatives increased, whereas the average farm size decreased considerably, as compared to the previous census of 1979. Total farmed area also decreased as a result of urban growth.

An appointment of 13,000 teachers awarded by outgoing President Portillo two days before leaving office has been temporarily suspended by the new authorities of the Ministry of Education, which has established a commission to review the awarding process. The Ministry of Education has announced, however, that classes will not be disrupted, and therefore the school feeding programme will continue as planned.

The Spanish and British aid agencies signed an agreement for a joint cooperation programme aimed at poverty reduction of small coffee farmers. Collaboration with WFP will be considered under Regional PRRO

The Fuego volcano continues to show signs of increased activity, with moderate explosions and lava flows. Columns of gases and ash emissions reach 1 to 1.5 km high.

2) Security

A road blockage by transporters in protest for a new municipal directive, which establishes circulation restrictions for heavy load vehicles in the capital, delayed field visits of food monitors. This disrupted field monitoring plans for the week as originally scheduled.

3) Implementation

A new increase of gasoline prices will raise transport costs for upcoming distributions of PRRO 10212.

The Ministry of Health is asking its Therapeutic Feeding Wards and Community Distribution Centers to submit their food requirements as a basis for determining the next food distributions. The first distribution of 2004 under the relief component of PRRO is expected to take place by mid February.

4) Logistics

On 21 January, a shipment of 2,050 MT of maize for PRRO 10212 arrived in the country. Transportation of the commodity from port to central warehouses is taking place.


1) Significant Events

The rate of violence in Haiti has been increasing in a daily basis. Demonstrations and clashes between police and groups opposing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have been reported. The protesters are demanding Aristide (who currently is ruling by decree) to resign before the end of his term in 2006. The current volatile situation is hampering WFP operations.

On 21 January, thousands of pro-Government demonstrators organized a protest demanding: (1) the respect of the constitution, (2) that President Aristide stays until the end of his mandate, and (3) that schools remain open. On the same day, the Police banned anti-government student's demonstration using tear-gas. According to unofficial sources, some pro-government demonstrators received an equivalent of USD35.00 for participating in the ongoing violent street protests.

On 22 January, the PAP Airport activity was disturbed by one day traffic controller strike requesting a salary increase.

2) Security

On 23 January, demonstrations took place in Port-de-Paix and a WFP project officer, traveling from Bombardopolis to Port-de-Paix, was trapped in Jean-Rabel (half way in between the two cities). The demonstrations resulted in an exchange of gun fire between government supporters and opposition. Several persons were injured. The "swap team" from national police flew in a contingent to calm down the violence.

On 19 January, a WFP local staff based in Bombardopolis field office was attacked by a male, accusing WFP of not hiring locals. The Mayor of Bombardopolis announced apologies for the incident and ensured that WFP's assistance was widely valued and that there was not anti-WFP sentiment by the citizens of the Far West. The Far west is the region targeted by the WFP PRRO operation.

On 12 January, during the distribution in Port de Paix, the beneficiaries forced the FDP gate saying that "We can not wait, our kids are hungry". Due to prompt intervention of the police force, the crowd was dispersed. No losses or injuries reported.

3) Implementation

Due to daily violent manifestations and the lack of security, the beneficiaries of WFP Health Activity in Port-au-Prince have reduced their attendance to the city's health centers. The insecurity is also affecting the implementation of the School Feeding Programme as 90% of schools are not operating regularly.

WFP has signed on 22 January an LoU with a local NGO called "Parole & Action"(P&A). P&A is a Dutch funded NGO based in Anse Rouge. They are currently implementing nutritional and food security activities in Artibonite and certain communes in the Far West. P&A will distribute about 500 MT of commodities to vulnerable population.

4) Finance and Staffing

With the resources received through a Canadian grant, the country office has recently established an RBM Unit to strengthen the quality of program implementation and reporting. An M&E specialist consultant has been hired to manage the RBM unit. She started on 12 January and will be working for nine months.

5) Logistics

Distributions in all projects have been disturbed because of the current political crisis. In the Far West some discontented anti-Aristide demonstrators have accused WFP staff of "bringing in food to appease the local population in an attempt to perpetuate the Aristide regime". In recent times the regime has used food and financial resources to quiet down people hostile to the current government. Meanwhile, a series of meetings are taking place between WFP local field office and citizens of the area to sensitize them that WFP is in the area for humanitarian reason of helping people affected by disasters.


1) Significant events

About 1,115 families of the Department of Puno (provinces of Puno, Azanagaro, Carabaya, Chuquito, Huancane) in the southern part of the country are being affected by the overflowing of rivers and landslides as a consequence of heavy rains which are blocking access, destroying crops and killing husbandry. As a result of this supplies of food and communications have been cut off. Civil Defense has informed that the situation will be worst the following days bearing in mind that the rains will be heaviest.

Government is distributing food, medicines and tents to the affected people. WFP is monitoring the situation.