The EU helps Peru respond to widespread floods affecting over a million people

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Peru has recently experienced the worst floods in decades. The Andean country’s arid desert coast was inundated by torrential rains battering Peru between December and March, costing 107 lives and leaving more than 170 000 people homeless so far. Most rivers have overflowed along the 2500 kilometre Pacific coast, and 24 of the country’s 25 regions were severely affected.

The EU has disbursed €1 million in emergency humanitarian aid, deployed civil protection experts and facilitated European donations in kind, including life-saving water pumps from Spain and France to assist those most affected in the northern provinces of Piura, Lambayeque, Tumbes y La Libertad.

In the northern city of Piura, where more than 8000 houses were destroyed (according to United Nations figures), an EU humanitarian expert was assessing emergency needs just days after the worst floods. The water infrastructure had collapsed, and people urgently needed safe water and proper sanitation.

_“It was 9 in the morning when the river came; it took everything away and left us with nothing: now we live in little tents, with only the clothes on our backs,”_says Rosa Irene Martínez Robles, one of the residents supported by EU humanitarian partner CARE, which has been handing out emergency kits, thanks to a first, initial contribution of €250 000 from the European Commission.

In addition to handing out first-necessity items (such as buckets and water purification tablets), the EU’s humanitarian partners on the ground are supporting local authorities in assessing damages and risks to the population. Beyond the immediate needs of victims - who need water and medicine to survive the first few days - they fear the onset of a health crisis as stagnating waters create an ideal breeding ground for the vectors of zika, malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

“Sometimes the scale of needs of people affected by floods are not obvious," says Rocío Nunez Vilela, who volunteers to help CARE assist those most vulnerable. _“Not so here, and I’m grateful to be able to support these families with essential health and hygiene equipment,”_ she adds.

The European Commission has also activated its Civil Protection Mechanism at the request of Peruvian authorities, deploying experts in disaster management, hydrology, water and sanitation to Peru.

“Peru’s specific topography – with the Andes cordillera bordering the desert coast – is particularly prone to creating mudslides, rivers overflow downhill through terrain with limited capacity for water absorption,” Boris Teunis, an EU Civil Protection expert in hydrology, explained.

“Peruvian rivers are currently estimated to be discharging their highest volume of water in more than 200 years,” he added, quoting weather forecasts based on hydrological models developed by the European Commission’s Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS).

This severe disruption of usual weather patterns is caused by El Niño, the abnormal warming of Pacific Ocean waters which creates storms and subsequent flooding.

The EU’s experts are liaising with national authorities to optimise the response and help save lives. Looking to the future, the European Commission has launched multiple disaster preparedness projects to the cost of €1.6 million which will prevent and mitigate forthcoming catastrophes.