Uruguay

Uruguay: Floods DREF Bulletin No. 2 MDRUY001

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The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in 185 countries.

In Brief

Period covered by this update: 12 May to 16 May 2007.

History of this Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF)-funded operation:

- CHF 15,000 (USD 12,397 or EUR 9,146) was allocated on 10 May 2007 from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to respond to the needs of this operation.

- An additional CHF 125,000 (USD 103,306 or EUR 76,220) was allocated on 14 May 2007 to expand the operation.

- This operation is expected to be implemented over 4 months, and will be completed by 10 September 2007; a DREF Bulletin Final Report (narrative and financial) will be made available three months after the end of the operation (by 10 December 2007).

The International Federation undertakes activities that are aligned with its Global Agenda, which sets out four broad goals to meet the Federation's mission to "improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity".

Global Agenda Goals:

- Reduce the numbers of deaths, injuries and impact from disasters.

- Reduce the number of deaths, illnesses and impact from diseases and public health emergencies.

- Increase local community, civil society and Red Cross Red Crescent capacity to address the most urgent situations of vulnerability.

- Reduce intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion and promote respect for diversity and human dignity.

Background and current situation

Intense and unusually prolonged rains, since the end of March this year, have caused serious flooding and widespread damage in the Departments of Durazno, Treinta y Tres, Soriano, Cerro Largo, Florida, San José, Rocha, Rio Negro and Canelones. The Departments of Durazno, Soriano and Treinta y Tres have been the most affected. Triggered by one week of torrential rains, the overflow of rivers has caused flash floods followed by landslides.

These floods are the worst recorded over the last 50 years and it is estimated that over 110,000 people have been affected, mostly poor and vulnerable groups (children, women and elderly). Early assessments showed that over 12,500 people were evacuated during the peak of the floods; according to the latest official figures of the National Emergency System (Sistema Nacional de Emergencia - SNE) 7,214 people remain evacuated. The number of deaths caused by the floods currently stands at two.

Table showing numbers of people evacuated in some of the affected Departments
(source: National Emergency System, 16 May 2007):

Department
Adults
Young people
Self-evacuated
TOTAL
Durazno
2,785
1,215
-
4,000
Mercedes
82
92
1,246
1,420
Villa Soriano
19
10
-
29
Tacuarembó
-
-
-
16
Paso de los Toros
60
30
-
90
Canelones
34
18
-
52
Treinta y Tres
40
57
400
497
Rio Negro
4
5
9
TOTAL
3,024
1,427
1,646
6,113

The floods caused severe damage to public infrastructure including rural roads, bridges, water supply, sewerage, drainage, power and telephone lines, housing, agriculture and municipal buildings - particularly schools and health care facilities. Thousands of houses have been damaged, with a large number of them totally destroyed. Most of the evacuations took place in poor and populated districts, with thousands of people being evacuated to temporary shelters, such as sports clubs, schools, and private homes. Most schools have closed down.

The following preliminary needs have been identified:

1. Food, blankets and mattresses for those displaced by the flooding
2. Chlorine, soap and other cleaning equipment to prevent the spread of waterborne disease
3. Transportation of these goods to affected areas.

Emergency needs are being addressed and public services slowly restored. The Uruguayan Red Cross (URC) has developed a Plan of Action to respond to the needs of 750 families affected by the floods (for full details see below). In addition, the URC together with Channel 4 organized a Telethon in which emergency relief goods were collected: clothing, hygiene items and food.

Furthermore, local authorities are interested in obtaining information on the economic damages and reconstruction plan, and to start looking at risk reduction and management possibilities in order to enhance emergency preparedness and response in future events.

Water levels have decreased slightly in some areas. However, a comprehensive assessment of damage to housing and infrastructure is still impeded by the floods.

Of particular concern is the water and sanitation situation in the affected areas, as some 30,000 people currently have no access to drinking water. The Uruguayan Air Force has deployed two helicopters to the city of Treinta y Tres in order to evacuate people from isolated areas and transport food to those who remain in their homes.

Due to the presence of stagnant waters, health problems from waterborne diseases and related infections continue to be a threat to vulnerable communities and are considered a priority to address. National authorities from the Ministry of Health recommended the adoption of extreme hygiene precautions to avoid the proliferation of transmissible diseases such as leptospirosis, typhus, hepatitis A, diarrhoeas, gastrointestinal- and skin infections.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In Uruguay: Nívea García de Meerhoff, president of Uruguayan Red Cross; email cruzroja@adinet.com.uy phone (598) (2) 4802112, fax (598) (2) 4800714

In Peru: Giorgio Ferrario, Head of Lima Regional Delegation; email giorgio.ferrario@ifrc.org, phone (511) 221-8151, fax (511) 441- 3607

In Panama: Stephen McAndrew, Head of Pan American Disaster Response Unit, Panama; email stephen.mcandrew@ifrc.org, phone (507) 316-1001, fax (507) 316-1082

In Geneva: Olaug Bergseth, Federation Regional Officer, Americas Department, Geneva; email olaug.bergseth@ifrc.org, phone (41 22) 730-4535, fax (41 22) 730-0395

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

For longer-term programmes in this or other countries or regions, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for national society profiles, please also access the Federation's website at http://www.ifrc.org