Paraguay: Drought DREF operation final report no. MDRPY005

Situation Report
Originally published



The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster response system and increases the ability of national societies to respond to disasters.

Summary: CHF 93,000 (USD 84,545 or EUR 57,585) was allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Paraguayan Red Cross in delivering immediate food assistance to 1,261 indigenous families in the department of Boquerón.

With the aim of reducing the impact caused by this natural phenomenon which requires the implementation of urgent measures and programmes to reduce the vulnerability of the population and of the indigenous communities, the National Government, by Decree of the Executive Authority Nº 229 of 10 September 2008, declared an Emergency Situation for a period of 90 days for the departments of Alto Paraguay, Boquerón and Presidente Hayes that were affected by a prolonged drought.

The National Emergency Secretariat (Secretaría de Emergencia Nacional - SEN) elaborated a plan of action to respond to this situation, entitling this "El Chaco needs us" (El Chaco nos necesita), with the express purpose of working in coordination with public and private institutions and the international community along six strategic lines.

The Paraguayan Red Cross (PRC) deployed an assessment team for one week to the department of Boquerón. The team worked jointly with government officials from the department of Boquerón and with local government branches in the municipalities of Filadelfia and Mariscal Estigarribia, carrying out damage and need assessments as well as identification of families affected by the drought. The International Federation, through its Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) and the Regional Representation for the Andean Region, provided support to the PRC from the outset of the emergency. A Regional Intervention Team (RIT) member specialized in water and sanitation was deployed to Paraguay for one month to provide technical support for the operation. The Agency for International Development of the United States government (USAID) channelled emergency funds for assisting families in the Department of Boquerón. Other organizations including the Inter-American

Development Bank (IADB) and the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) provided funds to rehabilitate water systems. Additionally, the Italian government replenished DREF in the amount of CHF 80,750.

The situation

The Central Region of Chaco covers 60 per cent of the country and includes the departments of Alto Paraguay, Boquerón and Presidente Hayes. The region of Chaco has significant climatic variations and unique geological characteristics that create a great variety of ecological phenomena including plains, dry savannas -that seasonally flood-, swamplands and extensive forests and brush land. One of the major problems this area faces is the extreme cyclical droughts and flooding. According to the Nature Conservancy, the river water levels in the mountain range area during the rainy season reach very high peaks and diminish dramatically during the dry season. The sustainability of agriculture is severely impacted by these drastic changes as the soil becomes highly impermeable causing floods during the rainy season whileduringdryseason thesoil becomessandy withpoor nutrients.

Additionally, the local population comprises mainly small-scale farmers and indigenous communities which face severe socio-economic challenges such as poverty, low wages, chronic malnutrition and low food supply, compounded by environmental concerns such as deforestation, general degradation of soil productivity and scarcity of water. The territorial and socio-economic framework of the region indicates that most of these impacts arefrequently under-reported or they do not receivevisibility at the international level, aphenomenonregularly knownas"silent disasters".

Notably, more than 60 per cent of the population is living belowthe poverty line and themost vulnerable are the indigenous communities that do not have enough land to cultivate and generate the income to afford basic necessities. The prolonged drought has deteriorated the population's basic subsistence as communitieshave temporarilylost theabilitytoproduce theirownfoodandsecure theirownwater supply.

According to SEN, health reports indicate high levels of respiratory and flu-like symptoms due to the drastic weather changes and the presence of constant strong winds coming in from the north. In addition, undernourishment due to the low food supply has caused the death of six children and low school performance.