Peru: Communities still suffering after coastal El Niño crisis

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According to the statistics the phenomenon “El Niño Costero” affected 1.7 million people in 24 departments of Peru, hitting the north and centre coastal areas the hardest. Due to heavy rains, storms and hail the regions of Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Ancash, Lima and Ica are still facing emergency challenges. The National Civil Protection Institute of Peru estimates that 159 people have died and 18 are still missing.

Nearly 403,000 houses collapsed and are uninhabitable or damaged. Some 19,212 people are living in tents or shelters, and 3,222 schools and 998 health centres were destroyed.

Since the crisis began, the Peruvian Red Cross has successfully provided humanitarian help to the people affected, through relief distributions, and provision of water, sanitation and hygiene support. Psychosocial support has played an important role since the beginning of the emergency operation.

The 400 volunteers of the Peruvian Red Cross who participated in the emergency were essential for an effective response. The National Society was supported by the International Federation of red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the ICRC, and sister National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from around the world.

The crisis began in January 2017, when heavy rains began and river water overflow caused flooding that devastated houses, crops and the animals that families relied on for their livelihoods.

People living in the remote and isolated community of Malingas, in Tambogrande district, were immediately evacuated when the storms hit, but they returned to find that their crops and their livelihoods had been destroyed by the flooding.

Mrs Beatriz, her husband and her three children were evacuated by helicopter during the emergency, alongside other Tambogrande district families, after the Piura River broke its banks and prevented access or escape over land. They returned to find their home badly damaged, their possessions and crops destroyed, and their livestock drowned. Now all they have is a small orchard where basic products grow for their everyday food and feeds their entire family.

However, Mrs. Beatriz and her family are being supported by a Peruvian Red Cross programme, which builds temporary housing modules with the help of community members, and helps to improve their resilience. The local government has forbidden the community to rebuild houses in areas of high risk, to reduce their vulnerability to future flooding.