Venezuela

Venezuela Floods Emergency Bulletin One

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At a glance
The floods and consequent landslides that hit Venezuela last week have had a devastating effect. Venezuelan authorities estimate that up to 50,000 people are feared dead.

Shelter - up to 200,000 people have been rendered homeless by this disaster food, medical supplies, water purification and other basic needs are being serviced through government support, the national Red Cross Society and other response charities.

Separation - children have been separated from their families

Key issues affecting children

Relief - initial relief efforts, focusing on the refuges for displaced people, will aim to support national groups caring for children separated from their families.

Key partners

All emergency work will be carried out in partnership with local professional groups in support of the government

Summary

Torrential rains which hit the northern coastal areas of the country caused extensive flooding and landslides. Over 200,000 people from the country's 23 million population are estimated to have become homeless as a result of the devastation caused. Many, including children, are still reportedly missing.

Save the Children has established contact with professional groups working in the flood-affected areas. Technical support is being provided on the registration of separated children and tracing their families.

In the UK, Save the Children is part of the joint-agency Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). Although an appeal is not currently being planned, the group is sharing information to ensure a coordinated approach.

Background

Two weeks of torrential rains have caused flash-flooding, mud and landslides in northern Venezuela. The State of Vargas, within the northern Federal District of Caracas, is considered the worst affected. The Government of Venezuela declared a state of emergency on December 16.

These are the worst rains to hit Venezuela in 32 years. As many as 50,000 people may have died in the floods and aftermath. Infrastructure such as roads, bridges and airports have been damaged or destroyed, leaving some communities totally isolated. The urban slums of Caracas are built on steep and unstable slopes. Entire suburbs have slipped into the mud. Many of the displaced are sheltering in temporary refuges (such as a sports stadium, the grounds of a military base and a satellite city near the capital Caracas) established by the government, military and national groups.

Key issues affecting children

The physical and emotional effects on children and their families will be severe, however an accurate assessment of the impact of the floods is not possible at present. Many children have lost parents, siblings and/or other members of their family. These children will need physical care and emotional support immediately and in the longer-term.

A professional group of medical and child care experts, working through the Universidad Central de Venezuela, are already helping to identify children and are carrying out immediate tracing and re-unification. They are working with local authorities and civil defence to raise awareness of the needs of sparated children and carrying out tracing for children in the refuges for displaced people. Save the Children has been offering technical support with this process of tracing their families so that they can be successfully and speedily reunified.

The extent of the devastation is such that full recovery is likely to take a long time. The process of helping rebuild services and infrastructure in the flood-affected areas requires provision of support and assistance well beyond this initial emergency period. Save the Children are in the process of conducting an assessment, and will be exploring links to national government and local groups as part of this.

Save the Children in VENEZUELA

Save the Children has not had a programme in Venezuela previously. The current response to the floods is being coordinated by the South America Regional Office in Bogota, Colombia. Save the Children will build on emergency experience gained through Hurricane Mitch and the Armenia earthquake.