Natural Disaster in Venezuela Update

Venezuela has been confronted with its most serious natural disaster in at least fifty years, following more than thirty-one inches of rainfall in the first half of December 1999. Normal average monthly rainfall for December is approximately two inches. The hardest hit portions of the country include coastal zones from the eastern State of Anzoategui to the State of Zulia. The area near Caracas has been seriously affected, with floods and mudslides destroying many homes and cutting major roads and highways. An estimated half million Venezuelans have been directly affected by the disaster, with some 150,000 homeless. The death toll could climb to as high as 25,000, as many people remain missing.

Updated Situation

The international aid effort is now being coordinated by several agencies which are working directly to assist the Venezuelan Government. These include:

  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
  • U N Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
  • International Foundation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)

Venezuelan Foreign minister, Jose Vicente Rangel, has stated that all cash donations will now be used only to restore housing.

51,000 persons are now homeless and being sheltered in nine large public facilities.

Environmental damage and health risks due to broken containers of hazardous material at the Port of la Guaira are being addressed by teams of both national and international experts.

International Assistance to Date

International Organizations

  • Arab Gulf Program for Support of UN Organizations: $100,000Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): US$ 50,000 grant; will redirect US$ 200 million in previously approved loans for use in emergency road building, education, health, and agriculture.
  • Organization of American States (OAS): US$ 20,000 grant from Inter-American Emergency Assistance Fund (FONDEM)
  • Pan American Development Fund (PADF): US$ 75,000, including grant to OAS office in Venezuela and in materials including tents, blankets and water purification tablets.
  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): US$ 25,000 Emergency Grant
  • UN Development Program (UNDP): US$ 50,000 Emergency Grant.
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): US$ 5,000 Emergency Grant
  • UN Children's Fund (UNICEF): Specialist for psychological support
  • UN World Food Program: US$ 200,000 emergency funding and authorized an initial Emergency Operation, which will last 15 days. This operation will include 600,000 food servings targeting an average of 20,000 people.
  • International Federation of the Red Cross/ Red Crescent: US$ 38,000 released from Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support relief operations; request made to international community for US$ 3 million for fund to assist 50,000 victims for three-month period. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that as of December 21, donors contributed total of $8,207,613 not including in-kind contributions and services.
  • The European Commission has responded with additional funding of Euro 3.2 million channeled via the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO). This brings the EC’s total contribution to date to Euro 3.6 million


  • Argentina: C-130 with 18 tons of humanitarian aid arrived on 23 December and will continue to assist in the air relief efforts for two weeks.
  • Brazil: A Boeing 707 with medical supplies arrived on 24 December.
  • Canada: US$ 175,000.
  • Chile: Military aircraft delivered 50 tons of relief supplies.
  • Colombia: Psychiatric team specializing in victim assistance.
  • Cuba: Aircraft with 40 doctors, 24 specialized medical personnel and equipment.
  • France: US$580,000 in emergency aid. 4 aircraft and 29 specialists to assist in all aspects of the relief effort
  • Germany: US$ 272,000 emergency aid through German Red Cross.
  • Israel: US$ 150,000 of medicine. US$40,000 of shelters. Water purification equipment.
  • Italy: 13 billion lira worth of food, medicine and donations to UNDP. US$ 80,000 to OCHA.
  • Japan: US$ 500,000.
  • Mexico: Mobile hospital, medicines, tents, kitchens, baby food, 190 support personnel.
  • Morocco: US$ 150,000
  • Norway: US$ 50,000.
  • Peru: Aircraft with relief supplies and personnel.
  • Spain: Cash Grant US$ 500,000 in medical supplies (8 tons), US$ 800,000 credit for infrastructure repairs.
  • Switzerland: US$ 63,000.
  • Uruguay: one C-130 aircraft with 11 tons of food, clothing and medical supplies. A UPA 2000 water purification unit to arrive 3 Jan.
  • United Kingdom: US$ 800,000.
  • United States: Initial US$ 25,000 Cash Grant to Venezuelan Red Cross; 10 military helicopters, 2 CASA-212 aircraft and two Zodiac boats; 35-member military coordination element; UASID/OFDA disaster assessment and coordination team. On 21 December, USAID/OFDA announced US$ 3.0 million cash grant for purchase and transport of relief supplies. Supplies previously delivered include: 6,000 hygiene kits, 15,000 blankets, 180 rolls of plastic sheeting, 7,200 five-gallon water cans, ten 3,000-gallon water bladders, 30,000 tetanus toxoid vaccines and 40,000 syringes. US Department of Defense relief operations support worth US$ 2 million to date, including US$ 697,000 in medicines and medical supplies. Ten helicopters, six C-130s and five Reserve Osmosis Water Purification Units (ROWPU) are working in Venezuela. On 24 December, President Clinton authorized the DoD to draw down $20 million to assist the relief operations. Three tons of medicines and clothing were collected at the Venezuelan Consulate in New York City.

Channeling of Assistance
  • Maiquetia Airport is receiving incoming flights from countries sending emergency assistance.
  • Collection point set up in Miami by Venezuelan Air Force.

    Venezuelan Air Force Acquisition Office
    8800 North West, Fifty Street
    Miami, Fl. 33172
    Tel. 305-592-4460/1 Fax 305-477-9351
  • UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions to be used for immediate relief assistance, in coordination/consultation with relevant organizations in the United Nations system.
  • PAHO serving as coordination agency with international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and private voluntary organizations in Venezuela wishing to contribute medical assistance and/or material. PAHO is also setting up its Humanitarian Supply Management System to assist the Venezuelan Civil Defense in classifying, sorting, inventorying and prioritizing incoming supplies. Monetary contributions to the Pan American Health and Education Foundation to support PAHO-coordinated efforts may be wired to:

    Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF)
    Account #04-07-143-151
    The Riggs National Bank (ABA 054000030)
    Dupont Circle Office
    1013 Massachusetts Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20036

Points of Contact

  • Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS (AMB Virginia Contreras) (202)342-5837
  • Inter-American Development Bank (Mr. Miguel Rivera) -
  • International Red Cross / Red Cresent (41)22-730-4222 -
  • Organization of American States (Mr. Paul Spencer) -
  • Pan American Development Fund (Mr. Norberto Ambros) -
  • Pan American Health Organization - (202) 974-3520
    Dr. Claude DeVille - (202) 974-3434
    Dr. Jean Luc Poncelet - Fax: (202) 775-4578 or
  • United Nations

    Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) - (41) 22-917-1234
    OCHA Desk Officers: Mr. Erik Haegglund - (41) 22-917-3299
    Mr. Carlos Monteiro-Pereira - (41) 22-917-1383

  • Inter-American Defense Board

    Captain Thomas Breitinger / Colonel Pedro Colmenares - (202)939-6044/5

  • US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)
    Regional Coordinator: Ms. Stephanie Fritz - (202) 712-4867
  • U.S. Southern Command (Miami) Operations Center - (305) 437-3722
    Venezuela Disaster Crisis Action Team (Lt Col Dekinder) - (305) 437-3533
  • Venezuelan Civil Defense Office (Caracas) - (58-2) 662-8476, (58-2) 662-2305

Monetary Donations can be made to :

  • American Red Cross - English 1(800)435-7669 - Spanish 1(800)257-7575
  • Embassy of Venezuela and Washington - (202)342-2214
    designated bank account at:
    First Union Bank - 1(800)275-3862
    Venezuelan Flood Relief Fund
    account number 2000002966991

*Please contact the IADB at 202-939-6600 for release approval