Venezuela

Venezuela Floods Fact Sheet #9

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Overview of Current Situation

As of December 29, individual state governments and the Venezuelan Red Cross report the following disaster statistics. The Government of Venezuela (GOV) estimates that the total death toll could reach 20,000-30,000, and that approximately 400,000 people have been left homeless.

Humanitarian agencies and GOV officials report that the largest problem related to the disaster continues to be lack of potable water and sanitation facilities and the need for health education in affected areas.

Other needs identified by the GOV include strengthening of the epidemiological surveillance system, mental health programs, rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure, communication and other support equipment, and management of humanitarian aid.

From January 1-2, scattered rain showers triggered a number of small landslides along the main coastal highway in the northern region, cutting off access to some deployed relief workers. Venezuelan emergency services were placed on alert in case of further flooding or mudslides. Venezuelan officials stress that this additional rain is not causing any "life-threatening" situations.

USG Response

USAID
From January 3-10, a four-person hazmat team (comprised of one person from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one person from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and two persons from a U.S. Coast Guard Strike Team) will be deployed to Venezuela under USAID/OFDA funding to assess environmental damages and health risks resulting from broken containers of hazardous material at the Port of La Guaira. The hazmat team also will provide guidance to the GOV on methods for cleaning up the hazardous material, and will recommend equipment and supplies to the GOV for carrying out the clean up operation.

USAID/OFDA has funded an additional six water purification units, bringing the total number of USAID/OFDA-funded units to nine. The six units, transport of them, and technical support for their installation will cost $380,944. The units are scheduled to arrive in Venezuela on January 9, and will be installed in Quebrada San Julian and Quebrada Cerro Grande (Vargas State). Three other USAID/OFDA-funded water purification units and two technicians hired to install the units arrived in Caracas on December 26. These units were installed in Macuto (Vargas State), and are capable of providing 450,000 gallons of purified drinking water per day to 80,000-100,000 people.

USAID/OFDA water engineers have tested water samples at six locations in Miranda State; provided water purification tablets to GOV authorities for immediate distribution there; and, in coordination with the governor, have developed tentative plans for longer-term water treatment, storage, and distribution in the state.

USAID/OFDA will fund two sanitary engineers to assist the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in conducting water/sanitation assessments and implementing water/sanitation projects. The engineers will arrive in Venezuela on January 4.

U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)
As Of December 31, U.S. DOD Joint Task Force Fundamental Response was comprised of 111 U.S. military personnel and was supported by seven U.S. military helicopters.

As of January 2, DOD had accumulated 496 blade hours in its efforts to assist in the evacuation of injured and displaced persons and delivery of relief supplies.

On December 30, U.S. military helicopters flew 20 sorties to transport 640 Venezuelan soldiers into and out of Vargas. This completed the rotation of 6,000 Venezuelan soldiers into Vargas, where they will be providing security and carrying out relief operations. A similar number of Venezuelan soldiers will be rotated into and out of Vargas every 15 days for an indefinite period of time.

On December 31, a Denton flight, carrying 150,000 pounds of food and water, arrived in Caracas. DOD transported the commodities from New York for Americare, which consigned the goods to the Venezuelan Red Cross.

A DOD water assessment team arrived in Caracas on January 2. A report of the team's findings will be reported in the future.

DOD has five Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units (ROWPUs) installed in Venezuela, three in Caraballeda and two in Catia La Mar. An additional unit will be installed in Macuto.

International Response

In consultation with Venezuelan water authorities, PAHO is preparing a comprehensive plan to ensure the availability, quality, and distribution of potable water to affected areas.

PAHO has installed the Humanitarian Supply Management System (SUMA) database to classify, sort, inventory, and prioritize all incoming relief supplies.

Member states of the Organization for American States (OAS) have allocated an initial $20,000 from its Inter-American Emergency Assistance Fund to help meet immediate needs of flood victims. The OAS has indicated that it will redirect additional funds for reconstruction activities.

The Inter-American Development Bank has allocated $50,000 to the Bank of Venezuela in support of logistics, and has approved the reprogramming of $200 million in loans for potable water distribution, epidemiological surveillance, and health education.

Local Response

The Venezuelan Civil Defense and the Venezuelan Red Cross are completing a census of shelters. Information regarding shelters and victims in shelters is available online at www.rce.gov.ve/rce.

The Ministry of Health is coordinating health activities in the affected areas and reinforcing epidemiological surveillance in shelters to ensure early detection and diagnosis of health problems.

Public Donations Information

In the interest of effective coordination of public response, USAID encourages the public to contact directly those private voluntary organizations (PVOs) currently working in the region in order to provide monetary donations or to call the USAID hotline at 1-800-872-4373 during normal business hours.

A list of the PVOs may be obtained from the USAID web site at www.info.usaid.gov. The list is composed of PVOs that are registered with USAID and/or listed by InterAction, a coalition of voluntary humanitarian and development organizations that work overseas. InterAction can be contacted at 1-202-667-8227 x106, or via the Internet at www.interaction.org. Those interested in providing specific technical relief services or commodities should contact Volunteers in Technical Assistance's (VITA's) Disaster Information Center for information and guidelines at 703-276-1914.

USAID will not deviate from standard Denton Program procedures for transporting privately-donated relief supplies. USAID will prioritize delivery of essential relief commodities. For more information on the Denton Program, please refer to the USAID website at www.info.usaid.gov/hum_response/pvc/denton.html.

For additional information, please access the Natural Disasters section of ReliefWeb at www.reliefweb.int.

Background

Two weeks of unrelenting rain led to flash flooding in northern Venezuela during December. On December 16, the Government of Venezuela declared a State of Emergency for eight states (Zulia, Falcon, Yaracuy, Nueva Esparta, Carabobo, Tachira, Vargas, and Miranda) and the Federal District of Caracas. The states of Miranda and Vargas were particularly hard hit.

On December 16, 1999, the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela declared a flood disaster, thereby enabling the provision of USG humanitarian assistance.

USAID/OFDA dispatched a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) on December 20 to help coordinate response activities and to perform damage and needs assessments.

Total U.S. Government Funding to Date

Action
Funding
USAID/OFDA Disaster Assistance Authority to the U.S. Embassy for purchase of relief supplies, construction materials, and food. These funds were provided to the Venezuelan Red Cross and the Catholic-Episcopal Conference.
$25,000
USAID/OFDA Local purchase of medical supplies. The U.S. Embassy purchased 30,000 tetanus vaccines and 4,000 syringes and passed $150,000 to the Venezuelan Red Cross for purchase of additional medical supplies.
$200,000
USAID/OFDA DART support costs
$150,000
USAID/OFDA Purchase and transport of 100 rolls of plastic sheeting, 5,600 five-gallon water containers, 15,000 wool blankets, ten 3,000-gallon water bladders, and 1,500 body bags. Airlifts arrived December 19 and 20.
$439,604
USAID/OFDA Purchase and transport of 80 rolls of plastic sheeting, 1,600 five-gallon water containers, 1,600 wool blankets, 6,000 hygiene kits, and medical kits. Airlift arrived on December 23.
$143,558
USAID/OFDA Funding in support of PAHO's appeal
$200,000
USAID/OFDA Transport of and technical support for three water purification units
$250,916
USAID/OFDA Purchase and transport of and technical support for six additional water purification units
$380,944
USAID/OFDA Funding in support of UNICEF's appeal
$150,000
USAID/OFDA Total USAID funding to date*
$1,791,987
USAID/OFDA Total DOD funding to date**
$3,758,000
Total USG funding to date
$3,756,865
* USAID/OFDA is authorized to spend $3 million in response to the Venezuelan floods.

** This funding is in addition to $20 million authorized by President Clinton on December 24 in support of DOD humanitarian operations in Venezuela.