Colombia: Emergency aid to Colombian communities affected by serious flooding

Amount of Decision: Euro 500,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/COL/BUD/2004/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

Each year between late October and December there are heavy rains in Colombia which cause flooding in northern and coastal areas. Usually the consequences are able to be dealt with by the National Disaster Prevention and Response System (SNAP), but this year, the flooding has been exceptional because the rains started early, at the beginning of October, and have been particularly heavy and continuous. The impact of the flooding has been accentuated by a failure to have taken adequate preparation and mitigation measures.

On 11 November 2004 the Colombian government declared a state of emergency in 8 departments: Atlantico, Bolivar, Guajira, Cesar, Cordoba, Magdalena, Sucre and Santander.

On 5 November IFRC launched an appeal for 953,000 Swiss Francs (€620,000) to assist 20,000 people. On 17 November this document was updated as the number of affected people had more than doubled. Since then, more rain has caused this figure to increase further, so that IFRC is likely to launch a revised appeal very shortly to assist 40,000 people (i.e. 8,000 families). By 23 November 345,108 people (68,021 families) from 21 of the 32 departments in the country were affected by the flooding(1) - this is 2-5 times higher than in the previous 4 years(2). 207,162 of those affected are children (60% of the total), 68,350 men (20%) and 69,596 women (20%).

1.2. - Identified needs:

- Food: In the affected area rice is one of the major crops, typically with smallholdings of 1-5 hectares, close to the river banks. Many of these have been destroyed, along with crops of manioc and bananas, which are not very resistant to soil softening and disintegration. People who were already in a vulnerable position have lost their crops, animals, reserves and other means of subsistence, and have exhausted their coping mechanisms. Furthermore, agriculture is the principal source of employment and income generation in the area.

- Emergency shelter: 469 houses have been destroyed and 20,287 seriously damaged(3). Temporary shelters for the duration of the floods are essential when people can no longer live in their homes. Since many of the seriously damaged houses were built in high risk areas, their rehabilitation is not viable.

- Health: Medical organisations report an increase in acute respiratory infections, acute diarrhoeas, food poisoning, skin diseases, anxiety crises and malaria. Most of the affected families do not have health insurance and although there are sufficient staff at most of the health centres, there is a serious lack of medicines.

- Water, sanitation and hygiene: Water for consumption has been polluted by the flooding and flood water has seriously damaged the network of water conduits in the urban areas. In the rural areas water sources such as streams and wells have become completely unusable. There are generally no sewage treatment installations in the area, in both urban and rural zones, and faecal particles are being discharged directly into rivers and streams. Waste disposal is very basic and the torrential rains have swept much waste into the watercourses.

- Non food items: Families forced out of their houses and into emergency shelters need basic items such as bedding, kitchen utensils, hygiene kits and mosquito nets.

- Disaster preparedness: It is essential to mainstream disaster preparedness, in terms of awareness, capacity-building and community organisation, into the emergency response, since lack of preparedness has been one of the roots of the present disaster.

National capacities are inadequate to cover the needs of all of those affected, especially people in geographically remote areas, those in conflict zones and those in areas controlled by the guerrillas, where state institutions are not present.


(1) Data gathered by Colombian Red Cross and SNAP

(2) SNAP: 170,581 people affected by floods in 2003, 44,587 in 2002, 79,194 in 2001 and 51,063 in 2000

(3) Colombian Red Cross