Paraguay: Drought Minor Emergency No. 05ME060 Bulletin No. 2

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In Brief



The situation

A period of prolonged drought is once again affecting 4,900 families in the department of Boquerón in Paraguay this year, where little o t no rain has fallen since April. The western region of Paraguay, called the "Paraguayan Chaco", which includes the department of Boquerón, covers an area of 246,925 km², equivalent to 60 percent of the country, and has a population of 160,214 inhabitants. This region experiences droughts on an almost annual basis.

The main limiting factor for the development of the Chaco region is the recurrent scarcity of drinking water due to the climate, which varies from sub-humid and semi-humid to semi-arid and arid. Drought also frequently affects neighbouring regions of Argentina and Bolivia. This problem has generally been tackled with two different types of cisterns used for rainwater harvesting: cisterns or storage tanks called aljibes, and cutwater cisterns called tajamares. These cisterns are now totally dry. The drought has also damaged crops throughout the area, which is primarily populated by subsistence farmers.

On 26 September 2005, the Paraguayan National Conference declared a state of emergency in the Chaco region for six months. Government ministries, the National Emergency Secretariat (SEN) and other organizations working in the region will work together with farmers and residents to provide assistance in response to this situation. The department of Boquerón has a Departmental Emergency Committee (CDE) to work on problems such as severe drought; however this committee has not held meetings for 2 years now.

An estimated total of 11,518 families (52,990 people) in 265 communities in the 3 departmentsin the Chaco region have been affected as shown below:

Affected families
Number of
Presidente Hayes
Alto Paraguay

Source: SEN ó Assistance Programme database CEN/COOPI ó Asociaciˆ n de Cooperaciˆ n IndÔgena Menonita ó Gobernaciˆ n de A. Paraguay ó Red Cross census óS tatistics and Census Department.

Following a severe drought in200 0 -- 2 001,th e Paraguayan Red Cross (PRC)i ntervened in the region,wi th support from the Spanish Red Cross and the Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid of the European Commission (ECHO), to provide assistance to the communities with food and the building of water systems. In 2002 -- 2 003 the Federation, the Spanish Red Cross, ECHO and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), together with the PRC, financed humanitarian aid operations supplying food to 5,976 families in 57 communities. At this time, another 4,194 families also benefited from the distribution of safe water, and 74 water supply systems were built. The relief operation also included training and information on better hygiene and water and sanitation practices. After the emergency phase, the Federation also supported a transition project, using the community integrated programmem ethodology. The Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) methodology was applied in order to complete a diagnosis of the community and carry out community-based planning. Volunteers were trained in the use of specific tools to work with communities, and hygiene, water and sanitation and disaster preparedness activities were carried out.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action taken so far

Based on surveys carried out in the affected departments, it has been determined that the Paraguayan Red Cross will provide food supplements to 1,150 families in 22 communities in the department of Boquerón. Communities that are reliant on locally grown crops, have exhausted their food reserves and are located far from urban centres will be prioritized.T he local communities are being organized in order to better manage these food distributions, which are being carri ed out with funding provided by the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).

The Paraguayan Red Cross is also working to create and train a community-based team to promote better practices in water and sanitation management and to improve the use and availability of safe water. This phase of the e r sponse operation is being carried out in cl ose coordination with other relevant national actors.

Additional projects will be carried out for rehabilitation, including training activities and community integrated programming (CIP). A longerterm project,su pported by the Federation, will also be developedi n order to improve water and sanitation systems, benefiting more than 1,150 families.

The needs


An urgent need to be tackled is to work on th e improvement of the water supply system and safe water access for the affected families


There has been an increase in the incidence of infectious diseases related to the lack of clean drinking water. Health personnel in the region stress that there is little they can do without the necessary resources. There is also a need to promote good hygiene practices in the affected areas.


Both commercial and subsistence farmers have been hard-hit by this disaster. Community food reserves have already been used as the previous year's crops were also affected by low amountso f rain.

For information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In Paraguay: Luis Diaz de Bedoya, President, Paraguayan Red Cross, Asuncion; email, phone 595-21-222-797, fax 595-21-211-560

In Panama, Nelso n CastaÙo, Head, Pan American Disaster Response Unit; email if, phone (507) 316-1001, fax (507) 316-1082

In Geneva: Olaug Bergseth, Federation Regional Officer, Americas Department, Geneva; email, phone (41 22) 730-4535, fax (41 22) 733-0392

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organisations (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.

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