Venezuela

Joint PAHO/OAS statement on the floods in Venezuela

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Washington, D.C., 29 December 1999 -- Torrential rainfall produced serious flooding and mudslides that began on December 13-14 and affected ten states in the northern part of Venezuela, including its capital, Caracas. National authorities estimate that more than 20,000 people were killed or have been reported missing and more than 200,000 have been affected. More than 4,000 persons are in large temporary shelters in La Guaira, Caracas, Maracay and Valencia.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is exercising the coordinating role for the response to the disaster. In this context, high-level meetings have taken place with the participation of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the Inter-American Defense Board and the Ambassador of Venezuela to the OAS. The initial response of the Inter-American System is as follows:

PAHO supplied US$25,000 for immediate health-related emergency needs. Through its Country Office in Caracas, the Organization has been collaborating closely with the Government of Venezuela on epidemiological surveillance activities, the evaluation of damages to the health infrastructure and to the health system itself, and to determine immediate needs in environmental health, water quality, epidemiological surveillance, mental health, and other areas of public health.

At the present time, the PAHO Representative in Venezuela, who was initially acting as the Coordinator of the United Nations System, is coordinating the response with the support of disaster specialists, epidemiologists, sanitary engineers, mental health professionals and other public health experts who have been mobilized from throughout the Region as well as personnel from other agencies. National and international experts are also providing assistance to national authorities and the Venezuelan Red Cross on the management of incoming humanitarian aid. SUMA, the Humanitarian Supply Management System developed by PAHO, has been installed to classify, sort, inventory and prioritize all incoming aid, thus ensuring accountability and transparency in these operations.

In response to an international appeal made by PAHO the first few hours, US$730,000 was received from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom; the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA); and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

The OAS Member States met to consider the consequences of this natural disaster and express their support to Venezuela, allocating US$20,000 from the Inter-American Emergency Assistance Fund (FONDEM) for the most urgent needs and will reprogram additional funds for the reconstruction phase. They are also mobilizing country offices in each Member Country to strengthen existing inter-country agreements to facilitate and make more effective the humanitarian assistance they send to Venezuela.

The IDB allocated US$50,000 to the Bank of Venezuela to be used for transportation and other logistic needs and US$200 million from already approved loans will be reprogrammed in order to solve urgent needs for potable water distribution, epidemiological surveillance and education, among other areas.

IICA sent an assessment team to support the Ministry of Agriculture during this phase and also to prepare reconstruction and food procurement projects. They are willing to assist in the relocation of the displaced population.

PADF sent an assessment team, gave a US$25,000 Emergency Grant to the OAS office in Caracas and has two aid packages ready consisting of tents, purification tables, etc., each with a value of US$25,000. They are also receiving donations from various companies, which have surpassed US$50.000.

The Inter-American Defense Board is working very closely with the Venezuelan Civil Defense, the U.S. Southern Command and the Venezuelan Ministry of Defense and its agencies to determine the real needs and what elements are already available in the country.

Updates to the above can be found at http://www.paho.org and http://www.reliefweb.int

The Government of Venezuela has identified the following priority areas for assistance in the immediate and the rehabilitation phases:

  • strengthening the epidemiological surveillance system
  • food handling and safety aspects
  • safe water and basic sanitation for displaced persons who might have to remain in temporary shelters for at least three months
  • mental health programs
  • rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure
  • management of the humanitarian aid
  • communication and other support equipment
All Member Agencies of the Inter-American System fully recognize the key roles performed by the Ambassador of Venezuela to the OAS and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

PAHO and the OAS convey their condolences to the Government and the People of Venezuela and reassure them that all possible efforts are being made to assist them during this crisis.

Dr. George Alleyne
Director, PAHO

Mr. CÚsar Gaviria
Secretary-General,
OAS