Bolivia + 1 more

Winter emergency in Peru and Bolivia

News and Press Release
Originally published
It's winter in the southern hemisphere, and parts of Peru and Bolivia are buried under as much as three feet of snow, creating an emergency to which Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is responding with its local partners.
Snow and temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit have killed more than 60 people as well as cattle and other livestock. (More than 50,000 llamas and alpacas have died in Bolivia; see photos). More than 20,000 adobe houses with straw roofs have collapsed or been badly damaged in Peru alone. The primary source of heat, stored firewood, is now damp from the snow. Crops and pastures have been destroyed. Most people who live in the zones of the worst weather are poor farmers and their families who depend on income from livestock.

The extreme weather has already caused severe illness or death in over 600 people, mostly elderly and children. Freezing temperatures have led to the loss of crops and up to 50 percent of the livestock that poor farmers and their families depend on for income. More than 98,000 people have been affected by the severe weather in Peru and Bolivia.

The government of Peru, which declared a 30-day emergency in eight departments (similar to U.S. states) in a remote area of the southern Andes, has airlifted some supplies and sought humanitarian assistance. The government of Bolivia said it has no resources to respond to the current situation.

LWR is helping

LWR's Andean Regional Office is responding to the immediate and long-term needs of a total of 675 families (more than 3,000 people) through two of its partners, the Specialized Development Association (AEDES) in Peru and the Program for the Self-Development of Social Initiatives (PAIS) in Bolivia. Both partners have years of experience in development and emergency response and are located in the affected zones of Peru and Bolivia.

In Peru, AEDES will distribute food rations to 400 families and seeds for the re-planting of 200 hectares of crops and animal fodder. In Bolivia, PAIS will distribute quinoa seeds (a high protein grain) for 275 families and will construct four greenhouses to help protect young crops. PAIS will also provide veterinary attention for more than 23,000 animals to reduce the rate of mortality. Training will be provided to promote more effective long-term management of food production and animal husbandry. The emergency response and prevention project will be from August 2002 to November 2002.

A girl's story

With the little clothes that they had left, Apolonia and her family arrived in the city of La Paz from Tupiza, their village in the high plains of Bolivia.

Apolonia, who is twelve years old, survived a treacherous experience in the violent snowstorms and unusually low temperatures.

Her two cousins, however, were not so lucky. Although clearly shaken-up, Apolonia's mother, Victorina Delgado related her daughter's tragedy:

"My daughter was found by rescuers when she was crawling on the snow near the bodies of her cousins. They were alone at home when it began to snow; they were scared and they wanted to go to the village, but they never arrived and there they died."

The girl and her parents were transferred yesterday to the Military School of La Paz. Apolonia was taken to the Children's Hospital. According to the first diagnosis, she has frostbite on her toes for which she will undergo surgery. Apolonia and her parents are now far from their home, but not from the snowstorms that, according to the National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology, will return to the high plains of Bolivia.