Venezuela: Floods appeal no. 35/99 final report


This Final Report is intended for reporting on emergency appeals
Preliminary appeal launched on: 20 December 1999 for 12 months for CHF 4,460,000; full appeal issued on 5 January 2000 for CHF 13,298,000; programme extended to 30 April 2001.

Beneficiaries: 50,000

"At a glance"

Appeal coverage: 89.4%

Related Appeals 01.30/2001; 01.31/2001;

The Disaster/Situation - The relief component of the appeal was completed on 30 April 2000, from which date the rehabilitation component has been under implementation. The Venezuela floods operation was successful in providing emergency relief to 50,000 beneficiaries as well as ensuring the provision of preventive health measures, clean water, sanitation and education in health and hygiene to flood victims during the rehabilitation phase of the operation. As from May 2001, activities taking place in Venezuela will be reported on under Appeal 01.31/2001, which is the extension of Appeal 35/99 for the rehabilitation and development phase and the balance will be carried forward.

Operational Developments:

In December 1999, over ten days of continuous rain in Venezuela resulted in major floods and landslides in the capital and also in the states of Miranda, Vargas, Nueva Esparta, Yaracuy, Falcón, Carabobo, Tachirá and Zulia. Rivers overflowed their banks affecting poor areas of Caracas, sweeping away thousands of homes. In the central coastal region, most areas in Macuto and Caraballeda were buried under mud and the urban centres of Los Corales, Camuri Chico and Carmen de Uría almost disappeared under rocks and mud.

Around 190,000 persons were evacuated and 326 military shelters were set up to house more than 100,000 evacuees. In addition, 63,000 people received assistance in 280 shelters in different parts of the country and numerous families took in family members and friends.

Today, it is estimated that the death toll stands at some 30,000 people and that 81,000 houses were affected, of which 30,000 were totally destroyed. In addition, the country suffered major economic losses and incurred significant environmental damage since massive mud slides swept away vegetation, leaving huge bare spaces on the mountain slopes. Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources warns that further disasters cannot be excluded given the levels of severe deforestation.

Red Cross Red Crescent action

The emergency phase of the operation focused on provision of food and non-food relief items, medical assistance, support for water and sanitation projects and the strengthening of the operational capacity of the Venezuelan Red Cross (VRC), particularly through training initiatives. The rehabilitation phase from May 2000 - April 2001 focused on preventive health, water and sanitation, institutional development and disaster preparedness.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Society

From the outset of the disaster, 15 of the 23 Venezuelan Red Cross branches were involved in emergency response. A total of 1,340 volunteers supported the government's relief and rescue action, transporting the injured for medical treatment and assisting people who had taken refuge in temporary shelters by providing food parcels, blankets, clothes and other relief items. The VRC obtained free warehousing facilities in the provinces, providing administrative facilities to the Federation and the PNS and chaired weekly coordination meetings.

In total, the VRC received 7,829 tracing requests and a tracing delegate was assigned who worked in close cooperation with local volunteers. 7,803 cases were resolved and today only 26 cases remain pending.

Emergency Phase of the Operation

Emergency Relief

Objective 1: To provide food, blankets and basic household goods to 50,000 people (10,000 families) for four months.

During the first two months following the disaster, food was distributed every two weeks and a reduced ration was then supplied during the third and fourth month of the operation. The food parcel was based on an initial ration of 1,900 calories per person per day, as far as possible in line with the dietary customs of the people. Three hygiene parcels were distributed per family: one containing sheets and a blanket; one with water purification tablets, a brochure with instructions for use and a large water container, and one with cleaning materials for families whose houses had been flooded.

Emergency Relief Beneficiaries

Number of Target Beneficiary Families
Number of Families assisted

Items Distributed

Appeal Target
Number of Items Distributed
Food parcels
Hygiene parcels
Bedding parcels
Water purification parcels
Cooking sets
Cleaning sets


Objective 2: To ensure first aid and medical support to affected communities.

Health brigades made up of a doctor, a nurse, a social welfare specialist, a first aider and a driver, accomplished the following in the states of Falcón and Vargas between December 1999 and May 2000.

Brigades also carried out vector control, assisting 90 communities, protecting 24,430 homes with a total of 123,588 inhabitants. In the area of psychological support, experts from the Mexican Red Cross participated in the operation and provided training to 162 volunteers. Venezuelan Red Cross staff continue to implement the psychological support project, with the support of the American Red Cross.

Water and Sanitation

Objective 3: To provide support in water and sanitation.

Water and sanitation was considered an immediate priority. A distribution plan was organised in collaboration with the state water company, HidroCapital and the Venezuelan armed forces, using tankers of 10,000 litres to provide drinking water. Three to four trips were made per day by each water tanker, providing a minimum of 15 litres per day for 20,000 people. In addition, a water purifying plant for emergency situations was transported from Honduras for operation in Vargas, producing on average 100,000 litres per day of high quality drinking water for three and a half months.

Donations of materials were also made to communities in Caraballeda with a population of approximately 20,000 people, for rehabilitation of temporary gravity fed scale water systems for affected communities. Health education activities relating to water and sanitation were carried out and several schools in Vargas were targeted using interactive hygiene promotion games. Jerry cans were distributed to 17,000 families in Vargas state together with water purification tablets. In Falcón, jerry cans and water purification tablets were distributed to 1,500 families and to a further 2,500 families with the collaboration of Oxfam. 150 fibre glass water containers with a capacity of 1,100 litres donated by the German Red Cross were distributed to schools, clinics and community centres in Vargas and in Miranda with the collaboration of Action against Hunger.

In addition, 10 water tanks with a capacity of 10,000 litres and distribution tapstands were purchased and installed in Macuto, Carballeda and Anare. The Federation also took over the management of various 10,000 litre water tanks previously installed by Oxfam and the French Red Cross. A large capacity water tank of 95,000 litres was provided for the communities of Caraballeda.

In Vargas state where the majority of water and sewage systems were completely destroyed as a result of the disaster, it was considered unwise to intervene in cleaning and repair of the sewage network given the large scale and high cost of such an operation. Clearly, the use of latrine technology would not been acceptable for the local population; hence, the involvement of the Federation in this area was limited to hygiene promotion.

Beneficiaries of the Water and Sanitation Project
December 1999 - May 2000

Vargas Vista Caribe, Caraballeda, Anare, Naiguata
Production and distribution of clean water; solid waste removal; distribution of water containers; hygiene promotion
Falcón Piritu, Mire Mire, La Montaña, Sierra San Luis
Distribution of water
containers; hygiene promotion


Objective 4: To set up a basic telecommunications network for the Venezuelan Red Cross.

The Netherlands Red Cross and the Colombian Red Cross Society supported the installation of a basic telecommunications network and teams of personnel were mobilised within the national headquarters disaster response office and in the branches of Falcón, Miranda, Aragua, Carabobo, Maracaibo, Neuva Esparta, Tachirá, Zulia and Vargas. 26 volunteers were trained in telecommunications operation at branch level.

Rehabilitation Phase of the Operation


Objective 1: The post-emergency phase of the health programme, supported by the Swiss Red Cross, aimed to improve the health status of 41 communities in four states: Vargas, Falcón, Carabobo and Lara through community health brigades, environmental sanitation initiatives and vector control.

Between 1 May and 31 July 2000, the following was achieved through the health brigades:

No. of Communities Visited
No. of Patients Treated
No. of Homes Visited
Health Education Sessions
No. of Persons Reached
May 2000
June 2000
July 2000

As regards vector control, brigades of 5 volunteers were formed and were trained together with the local authorities dealing with malaria prevention. The teams were therefore closely linked with the Ministry of Health and carried out both community education and health prevention activities. During the period May - July, 8,705 houses were protected through such measures as fumigation. In the district of Valencia, Carabobo state, a 60 per cent reduction in vector-transmitted diseases was reported. Other states also report a decrease in such diseases, but the lack of base line data prevents accurate analysis.

From August 2000 to April 2001, health activities were implemented through volunteers, focusing on health promotion, prevention of disease and the training of community health promoters. The programme was also extended to the state of Lara. As a result of the work of the community health brigades, 59 community workshops were carried out, 604 health promoters were trained, 450 health education sessions took place and ante-natal checks and child vaccination increased in the targeted communities.

A total of 21 garbage clearing campaigns were initiated in the communities of El Tigrillo, Montesano, Carmen de Urea, San Joaquín, Viento Suave, Las Palmas and Chirgua in the states of Carabobo, Falcón, Lara and Vargas. These took place with the participation of the community and the support of the local authorities for removal of the garbage.

Water and Sanitation

Objective 2: To promote the use of safe water and contribute to the re-establishment of sanitation systems.

As a result of the poor sanitary conditions found in several rural areas of Falcón affected by the flooding, it was decided to support the local branch of the Venezuelan Red Cross in a latrine construction programme. Two pilot villages of some 100 families, Macuquita and San Joaquín, were targeted in an initial phase. Training was given to volunteers in hygiene promotion and, in particular, in promotion of latrine use for safe excreta disposal. Community workshops were also designed and held for both communities focusing on latrine construction. However, several problems were experienced, mainly related to the need for high levels of community participation and to cultural norms, given the introduction of a new village technology. In view of the experience gained in Macuquita and San Joaquín, in January 2001 it was decided to increase the number of communities involved in the latrine programme in Falcón and also to initiate activities in Carabobo state. However, in view of the difficulties experienced in programme implementation, it was decided to reduce the initial number of target beneficiaries, considered too ambitious. In total, 400 new families were targeted. In order to facilitate training, a latrine manual aimed at communities has been developed along with scale models of latrines.

A design process has been initiated for the construction of a gravity-fed drinking water distribution system in the community of San Joaquín for 250 beneficiaries. Civil works for the system will shortly be initiated. The aqueduct requires strong community participation in terms of unskilled labour; means of seeking financial contributions from the community are also being explored.

In Vargas, a contingency stock was put in place, including a supply of chemicals to ensure the treatment of water for 2,000 families in the event of further flooding. A risk mapping planned for the Vargas area was planned, but had to be cancelled as a result of insufficient funds. Further flooding, although not widespread, did occur in November 2000. The Vargas branch of the VRC was involved in visiting affected communities where some contingency stocks were distributed.

In each of the following VRC branches: Falcón, Carabobo, Lara, Miranda, Vargas, Tachirá and Caracas, 20 - 25 volunteers were trained through basic workshops. Each course, of three days' duration, included emergency water distribution, water treatment, water storage and handling, sanitation, latrine construction and hygiene promotion. In addition, as a means of improving the quality of hygiene promotion provided to communities, the PHAST (participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation) methodology was disseminated through a training of trainers' workshop.

Objective 3: To strengthen the operational capacity of the Venezuelan Red Cross, both at the level of headquarters and the branches.

In the area of disaster preparedness, close liaison was ensured with both the Spanish and the American Red Cross Societies. The Spanish Red Cross carried out a community education programme for disaster prevention in 120 communities. In addition, two ambulances were provided to the Venezuelan Red Cross for the Caracas area. Warehouse administration was strengthened and materials supplied to the VRC in the event of a disaster.

Training was carried out in the project management cycle. Following such training, a technical office was created within the National Society which deals with the formulation of projects and their follow up.

As a means of ensuring continued water and sanitation activities within the National Society, and to create a more sustainable structure for the Venezuelan Red Cross, a water department within the health department of the VRC was created. In collaboration with the American Red Cross, work is taking place in order that the department may become operational.

The national headquarters were extended and renovated with the support of the American Red Cross, the Spanish Red Cross and the Federation. The Italian Red Cross, the German Red Cross, the Kuwait Red Crescent Society, LASMO (a private company) and the Federation are working on a construction project for a new branch headquarters in Vargas.

The National Society is obtaining the land to implement a housing project for 250 families with the support of both the the Spanish Red Cross and the Kuwait Red Crescent Society, which has already announced the contribution of USD 600,000 to the housing project.

Bilateral PNS Activities

The French Red Cross built 100 houses in the state of Miranda for the community affected by the flooding of the El Guapo dam. In November 2000, the Spanish Red Cross undertook rehabilitation and equipping of ten schools in Miranda, eight of which had been affected by the rains and two by the collapse of the dam. As a result, 1,470 children will be able to return to school. In Tacarigua, a school building is under rehabilitation and work has begun on a community centre in Santa Bárbara frequented by 1,200 people.

The Spanish Red Cross also ran a programme in support of agriculture for 292 families who were supplied with tools, seed and fertilisers. The American Red Cross also implemented a similar programme with FAO funding, in support of 3,000 farmers affected by floods in the state of Falcón. The Italian Red Cross reconstructed and equipped a school in Miranda, and created an orchard for the school on adjacent land donated by the local authorities. In addition, the Italian Red Cross provided assistance to more than 3,387 patients, carrying out 13,225 clinical analyses through the installation of laboratories in Caraballeda, Naiguata and Chaguaramal. With funding from UNDP, and in coordination with the Federation, the Italian Red Cross is also carrying out a project of latrine construction and environmental and health education in communities in Falcon.

A community-based child health programme is now under implementation as part of an agreement signed between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the American Red Cross and in coordination with the Ministry of Health, the Venezuelan Red Cross health department and the Federation. The programme aims to reduce the mortality rate of children under five prior to 2002 and is to be carried out in communities affected by the floods, as well as other vulnerable communities, in accordance with the integrated management of childhood illnesses (IMCI) model.

National Society Capacity Building

As a result of the floods operation, numbers of volunteers in each branch of the Venezuelan Red Cross have increased by 20 per cent. Furthermore, the image of the National Society has improved considerably, given the media coverage during the floods operation. The health department of the National Society has been reinforced through the creation of a unit dealing with water and sanitation. Renovation and extension of the headquarters, together with plans for renovation of the branch headquarters in Vargas, has also resulted in strengthening the capacity of the VRC.


Strategic alliances were built in the course of the operation, in particular with the Ministry of Health and Development, the local authorities and water boards of each affected state and UN agencies. The National Society and the PNS working in Venezuela also ensured effective coordination. In the area of water and sanitation, liaison was maintained with Oxfam, Action against Hunger, and coordination meetings with the water authorities were attended on a regular weekly basis.

For further details please contact Luis Luna Phone : 41 22 730.42.74 Fax: 41 22 733 03 95; email:

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at

This operation sought to administer to the immediate requirements of the victims of this disaster. Subsequent operations to promote sustainable development or long-term capacity building will require additional support, and these programmes are outlined on the Federation's website.

Santiago Gil
Americas Department

Peter Rees-Gildea
Head a.i.
Relationship Management Department

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