Peru + 1 more

Deadly South America cold prompts emergency response

Situation Report
Originally published
Written by Stephanie Kriner, Staff Writer,
August 7, 2002 - Low-income, rural populations in Peru and Bolivia are struggling to survive a cold front that has put parts of South America under a deadly freeze. With temperatures in some places plunging to a decade-long record of negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 20 degrees Celsius), frigid conditions have been blamed for 59 deaths in Peru and five in Bolivia. Hundreds of others are suffering from hypothermia, pneumonia and frostbite.

Red Cross societies in both countries have responded to the situation by providing the affected populations with winter clothes, blankets, food and health care, particularly to children and the elderly, who are most at risk.

In Peru, the hazardous conditions have hit a remote mountain area still recovering from an earthquake last year. More than 86,000 people have been affected and 17,000 houses have sustained snow-related damages. Most of the 59 deaths have been small children who contracted pneumonia.

Some 200 volunteers from the Peruvian Red Cross are delivering relief items, running shelters (including one that houses both humans and livestock) and providing health care to the struggling population.

Meanwhile in Bolivia, more than 12,000 people have been isolated by snow-covered roads, many of them without heat because snow also has coated the manure that provides their only source of fuel. The residents also lack adequate clothing, and have no recourse to take as their roofs collapse under the weight of the snow and their livestock and crops die in the cold.

At least 100 people are missing in the storms, and five have died from cold-related causes. Hundreds have been treated for hypothermia, frostbite and respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia. Twenty thousand homes were damaged in the snowstorm.

Bolivian Red Cross volunteers are delivering relief goods, providing first aid and transporting the sick and injured to the hospital.

"There is a threat of widespread starvation because the cold weather has wiped out much of the affected region's food source. The conditions have killed livestock and destroyed crops that many people depend on for survival," said Christine Strater of the American Red Cross. In Peru, 50 percent of the livestock have succumbed to the cold, and some 18,000 hectares of crops have died. In Bolivia, the conditions have killed 50,000 of the 120,000 animals.

The American Red Cross has reached out to assist its partner national societies by contributing a total of $35,000 to aid those affected by the current disaster in the two countries. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has allocated $55,233 to the response efforts in Peru and Bolivia. After emergency needs are met, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will assist with the countries' long-term recovery, possibly replenishing crops and livestock lost in the disaster.

While not as severely affected as their northern neighbors, Argentina and Chile have also been hit by the cold snap. In northwestern Argentina, snow storms accompanied by gusting winds have isolated hundreds of people. In Chile, 25,000 people have been affected, and authorities have reported one death from hypothermia.

You can help those affected by this crisis and countless others around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting

American Red Cross
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.