Colombia: Floods DREF Bulletin No. MDRCO002 Update No. 1


The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in 185 countries.

In Brief

Period covered by this update: 17 August to 15 October 2007.

History of this Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF)-funded operation:

- CHF 172,000 was allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 17 August, 2007 to respond to the needs of this operation.

- This operation is expected to be implemented for 3 months, and will be completed by 17 November, 2007; a DREF Bulletin Final Report (narrative and financial) will be made available three months after the end of the operation (by 17 February, 2008).

The International Federation undertakes activities that are aligned with its Global Agenda, which sets out four broad goals to meet the Federation's mission to "improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity".

Global Agenda Goals:

- Reduce the numbers of deaths, injuries and impact from disasters.

- Reduce the number of deaths, illnesses and impact from diseases and public health emergencies.

- Increase local community, civil society and Red Cross Red Crescent capacity to address the most urgent situations of vulnerability.

- Reduce intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion and promote respect for diversity and human dignity.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In Colombia: Walter Cotte, National Director of Operations and Relief, Colombian Red Cross Society, Bogotá; email: Phone (571) 437-6300, fax (571) 473-6301

In Colombia: Javier Barrera, Federation Representative, Bogotá; Phone (571) 428-5138, fax (571) 660-7010

In Lima: Giorgio Ferrario, Head of Regional Representation for South America, email: Phone (511) 221-8151, fax (511) 441-3607

In Panama: Stephen McAndrew, Head, Federation Pan American Disaster Response Unit, Panama; email, phone (507) 316-1001, fax (507) 316-1082

In Panama: Jose Garcia-Lozano, Head of Zone, Americas, email:, phone (507) 317 13 00; fax; (507) 317 13 04

In Panama: Xavier Castellanos, Deputy Head of Zone, Americas, email: phone (507) 317 13 00; fax; (507) 317 13 04

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's) in Disaster Relief and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (Sphere) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

For longer-term programmes in this or other countries or regions, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for national society profiles, please also access the Federation's website at

Background and current situation

Since March 2007, the annual rainy season has caused major floods and landslides affecting 28 of the 32 departments in Colombia, the most affected areas being the departments of Córdoba, Chocó, Bolívar, Sucre and Magdalena.

The Colombian Government has informed that the current rainy season is one of the strongest that has affected the country in the last decade. According to official figures, the severe rains have affected 443,000 people, left 57 dead, 102 persons missing and also resulted in at least 11,000 significantly damaged houses.

In department of Cordoba on the north Atlantic coast, the overflow of the San Jose and Sinu rivers and their tributaries has led to the flooding of 19 municipalities. The government, through the local authorities, declared a Red Alert (Decree 423 from 11 July 2007) to evacuate people from the riverside areas along the Sinú and San Jorge rivers.

Figures of affected families in the Cordoba department at 30 September, Colombian Red Cross:

Affected municipalities
Number of families affected
Number of people affected
San Pelayo
Buena vista
La Apartada
San Bernardo del Viento
Puerto Libertador
Cienaga de Oro
Tierra Alta
Puerto Libertador

A number of those gravely affected have relocated to temporary shelters which have been set up in schools and warehouses; others have sought shelter at friends and relatives' homes. A total of 113 temporary shelters in the department of Cordoba are currently housing 1,075 families (5,375 people). The prevalence of illnesses, such as DREF Bulletin no. MDRCO001, Update no.1 acute diarrhoea, respiratory infections and dengue, has increased, all related to contaminated water as a result of the floods.

Roads in rural areas were damaged which has made it difficult to access affected areas and for medical attention to get through to those who need it. Thousands of crops and livestock have been destroyed or lost with the floods, thereby considerably affecting people's livelihoods.

According to local authorities, the restoration of the livelihoods of thousands of families whose land has been damaged by the floods and the provision of healthcare and sanitation in preventing the spread of waterborne diseases are the most urgent needs. The Colombian government is acting on a number of levels to respond to the situation:

- The National Agency for Disaster Prevention and Response (Direccion de Prevencion y Atencion de Desastres - DPAD) delivered food and non-food items to approximately 16,000 families in coordination with the institutions joined under the National System for Disasters' Prevention and Response (Sistema Nacional de Prevención y Atención de Desastres, SNPAD). These agencies have so far carried out water and sanitation activities and provided transportation for relief goods. In addition, an allocation of USD 17 million was made in order to carry out medical assistance.

- The Ministry of Agriculture is coordinating a survey on affected agricultural sectors and will in turn provide assistance to agricultural producers through subsidies and by granting low interest loans through an agricultural bank.

- In coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Housing, the autonomous authorities of Sinú and San Jorge Valley (Corporación Autónoma Regional de los Valles del Sinú y del San Jorge) have started recovery activities in affected areas and are also subsidizing housing leases for a three month period to families who have lost everything. After this period the Ministry will provide these families with construction materials so they can rebuild their homes. The Ministry of Environment and Housing assigned 3,000 million pesos (USD 1.5 million) to reconstruct damaged houses in the departments of Antioquia and Bolívar.

- The Colombian Institute for Family Care (Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar - ICBF) provided psychosocial support to children of five years or younger, pregnant and nursing women in temporary shelters.

- The police and the Colombian Armed Forces supported aerial supervision of the affected regions, food distributions and initial recovery efforts in the most affected areas along the rivers.

Preparation for the next rainy season, which is expected in a few months time, is also a priority and authorities have dredged (deepened and widened) the Sinú River in the department of Córdoba. The Colombian Red Cross Society (CRCS) and the Civil Defence supported the initial evacuation activities as well as the management of temporary shelters. Nearly 113 temporary shelters were installed in seven of the affected municipalities (some of them were also damaged by floods). According to ICBF, shelters lack adequate sanitary conditions.

The United Nations (UN) response mechanisms were activated in order to mobilize resources and support national relief efforts. With the UN Central Emergency Response Funds (CERF) funds, the World Food Programme (WFP) will provide emergency food assistance for 90 days to some 30,000 people in La Mojana and 25,000 people in the department of Córdoba. This assistance will ensure food security through the provision of rice, pulses, vegetable oil and sugar. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has set up a water and sanitation programme supporting over 27,000 people in villages in the department of Córdoba. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has installed 33 shelter modules to assist 68,700 people from the flooded areas in La Mojana region.

The European Commission through the Commission's Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) has allocated EUR 1 million to provide assistance to those affected by the floods, by addressing immediate needs of up to 45,000 people of the population in the northwest of the country.

Several other international organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Action Against Hunger (AAH), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and Oxfam, have been working and supporting national and local authorities in various relief activities such as food security, water and sanitation and shelter.