Panama Floods: DREF Bulletin no. MDRPA001and MDRPA002 Update no. 3


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: 14 November - 28 November 2006.

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

- CHF 67,922 (USD 53,934 or EUR 42,769) allocated from the Federation's DREF on 20 October 2006 to respond to the needs of this operation.

- CHF 69,509 (USD 55,607 or EUR 43,716) was allocated from the Federation's DREF on 27 November to respond to additional needs due to recent flooding since 12 November.

- This operation is expected to be implemented for 4 months, and will be completed by 20 February 2007; a DREF Bulletin Final Report (narrative and financial) will be made available three months after the end of the operation by 20 May 2007. Unearmarked funds to repay DREF are encouraged.

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.

Background and current situation

As of 12 October torrential rains have been reported in several areas in Panama. Around 1,900 people have been directly affected by flooding and emergency situations resulting from these rains in the regions of Panama East, Panama West (in the province of Panama) and the province of Chiriquí. Authorities have reported landslides and flooding mainly due to overflowing of the Chiriquí Viejo and Chico rivers.

On 11 November, further heavy rains reported in the province of Panama caused additional flooding and affected some of the previously targeted areas.

The unstable weather conditions have continued and on 19 November - worsened by a cold front - brought heavier rains to regions that were already saturated with water, causing even more flooding. On 23 November, a National State of Emergency was declared due to flooding in the province of Colón (Costa Abajo), the Kuna Yala indigenous region, the north of the province of Cocle, and the North, West and East of the province of Panama. Up to now, more than 799 homes have been damaged, at least 247 of these completely destroyed due to the floods and strong winds. According to the initial assessments carried out by the National System of Civil Defence (Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil - SINAPROC) –and the Red Cross Society of Panama (RCSP), 11 people have died and around 5,109 people (approximately 1,022 families) have been affected. It is likely that the total number of affected people will rise once assessments are finalized, given that some communities are still isolated because of landslides, collapsed bridges and damaged communication facilities. At least 300 families have been evacuated to temporary shelters in Rio Indio, Colon.

Rescue, evacuation and emergency assessments have been coordinated with governmental institutions that are present in the affected areas, such as SINAPROC, the Panama Fire Brigade (Cuerpo de Bomberos de Panamá), the Housing Ministry (Ministerio de Vivienda), Ministery of Social Development (Ministerio de Desarrollo Social), Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud), Ministery of Public Works (Ministerio of Obras Públicas), National Maritime Service (Servicio Marítimo Nacional), National Air Service (Servicio Aéreo Nacional), the Office of the First Lady (Despacho de la Primera Dama).

Red Cross action

The Red Cross Society of Panama provided initial response to the emergency – in the three flooding crises - by supporting activities such as rescue and evacuation, first aid care, needs assessments and the provision of immediate relief items in the form of clothing, dry food and hygiene kits.

After assessing the situation arising from the first set of rains, the RCSP decided to prioritize the provision of kitchen sets, hygiene kits, food, water and blankets to 380 beneficiary families, among the most affected. During the second spate of floods, 50 additional families were identified as beneficiaries in Pacora and Chepo. After the assessment following the floods caused by the third onset of rains, local Branches from the affected areas have identified 500 additional families as being the most affected by the recent floods. In order to respond to the new emergency situation, a new DREF request was made and allocated by the Federation on 27 November.

The Red Cross Society of Panama, with the assistance of the Federation's Pan American Disaster Response Unit, (PADRU) is working to achieve the following objectives:

Objective 1: 930 of the most affected families (approximately 4,650 persons) benefit from the distribution of food and non food items to assist them to recover from the effects of the floods.

With the initial DREF allocation made on 20 October, the Red Cross Society of Panama, with PADRU's support, provided 380 affected families with hygiene kits, kitchen kits, food parcels, water and blankets. Distributions took place on 28 October and 1 - 2 November. A team of water and sanitation experts from the Federation participated in these activities and took the opportunity to evaluate the environmental health situation within the communities with the aim of preparing an environmental health awareness-raising campaign.

In response to the further rains as of 11 November, a team consisting of PADRU's Water and Sanitation officer, PADRU's IT and Telecommunications officer, a Regional Intervention Team (RIT) member and other PADRU staff assisted the RCSP during the needs assessment in Pacora and Chepo. Based on the findings of the assessment it was decided to provide humanitarian assistance to 50 additional families. On 16 November hygiene kits, kitchen sets and blankets were distributed to these families.

As the situation worsened due to continuous heavy rainfall, local Branches identified 500 additional families in the provinces of Colón, Coclé and Panama West. On 26 November - in response to the immediate needs - 250 of these families received a distribution of blankets and food parcels to assist them to cope with the situation. These families, together with the remaining 250 will be receiving additional family food parcels to complement the initial distribution as well as hygiene kits. Distributions will take place in the beginning of December.

Assistance is planned, as follows:

DREF no.
started on:
Affected districts
Relief items
12 October Chiriquí Rural
Hygiene kits, kitchen sets, food parcels, water tanks, blankets
Panama East Pacora
Panama West Chorrera
11 November Panama East Pacora/ Chepo
Hygiene kits, kitchen sets, blankets
19 November Colón Donoso/ Chagres
Hygiene kits, food parcels, water tanks, blankets.
Coclé Coclé del Norte
Panama West Capira

Objective 2: 380 families benefit from raised awareness in environmental health topics as a result of talks given by Red Cross volunteers during the operation.

During distributions of relief items to the initial 380 families in Chiriquí, Panama East and Panama West, the RCSP was able to assess more accurately the situation and needs of the population. A team made up of a Regional Intervention Team (RIT) member and the water and sanitation officer in PADRU gathered data through interviews and meetings with the population and assessment visits to communities in order to determine the conditions of latrines and water systems. The situation is extremely vulnerable, especially in the affected zones of Chiriquí and Panama East, and an intervention in the form of awareness-raising talks within the population is required. The talks will involve correct handling of water and use of latrines in order to improve the health situation and prevent disease.

With this purpose, an initial training workshop was carried out on 17 – 19 November for a selected group of Red Cross volunteers who will disseminate this knowledge within the communities. The different RCSP departments (health, training, communication and relief) have worked together to develop appropriate material for these workshops. Subjects addressed are: emergency assessment, hygiene promotion at community level, vector control, SPHERE standards and basic concepts in water and sanitation.

Educational and information materials that will be used for awareness-raising talks are now being developed by the RCSP and will be distributed amongst beneficiaries to support and enhance the planned talks.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

- In Panama: José Béliz, Director General, Red Cross Society of Panama; e-mail;; Phone (507) 315 189 or 680 3455; fax (507) 315 1401.

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

- In Panama, Rubén Romero, Disaster Management Delegate, Pan American Disaster Response Unit; e-mail;; phone (507) 316-1001; fax (507) 316-1082.

- In Geneva: Luis Luna, Federation Regional Officer, Americas Department, Geneva; e-mail;, phone 41-22-730-4274; fax 41-22-733-0395.

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 (NGOs) 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 Federationìs 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 Federationìs website at

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