March 5 2007
Flood-hit Bolivian families are struggling to survive
(5 March 2007) - Approximately 70,000 families have been affected by the worst floods to hit Bolivia in 25 years, and many have had to abandon their homes and possessions. Last week, Bolivian President Evo Morales declared a national state of disaster in the country. SOS Children's Villages is providing flood-hit families from the affected rural regions with emergency aid in the form of aid parcels and day-care centres for children.
Alfonso Lupo, the national director of SOS Children's Villages in Bolivia, talks about the current situation of flood-hit families and children in the Santa Cruz and Beni districts.
Where are the flood-hit families and children who had to flee their homes living and in what kind of conditions?
Alfonso Lupo: Many families and children from the flooded areas have relocated to the motorways as well as a kind of dike in the city centre of Santa Cruz. They live, cook and spend their time there in very crowded conditions. All schools have been transformed into emergency shelters, so there are no classes for the children. This concentration of people facilitates emergency aid work, but also leads to other problems and precarious conditions.
What are hygiene conditions like and what about health issues?
Alfonso Lupo: The situation is critical and everyone is very worried. This land is a tropical climate with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, which is now surrounded by a lot of water due to the floods. The water is already contaminated by human waste due to the large concentration of people. There is a danger of major water- and vector-borne diseases breaking out and spreading, primarily gastrointestinal diseases, but also dengue and mayaro, a parasitical virus transmitted by mosquitoes and characterized by high fever and an aching body.
How is family life being affected?
Alfonso Lupo: Life has completely changed for families and children, who are now solely focused on survival. They dream of returning to their homes and former activities. But this will probably not be possible. If they don't have the means to reconstruct their homes and livelihoods, they may have to relocate... but where to and with what means? What is going to happen when they realise they have nothing? There is a big risk of family disintegration, so the reconstruction of livelihoods has to be one of the main goals. But so far, families are still united and SOS Children's Villages is helping to ensure this remains the case, which is why we have named our emergency support "families help families". If families are intact then the children will have a better chance to develop.
How much emergency aid is still required?
Alfonso Lupo: A lot of emergency relief is still needed to save the affected people; this is our main concern right now. The situation is a lot more serious than we expected and it is getting worse with every week that passes. There has been a lot of emergency relief work so far (from authorities and other NGOs). The logistics have been difficult and demanding and it is becoming harder to reach the victims due to the flooding.
What longer-term consequences are expected?
Alfonso Lupo: After the floods, other emergencies will emerge which are equally serious and complicated. When the floods subside, only then will people know how much they have actually lost. We want to underline that this disaster is likely to worsen, and that people will need help in recovering their material resources and in rebuilding their livelihoods. These people were already poor and now the floods have taken the little they had. What will remain and what will these people do later on? The impact of this disaster is going to be huge in regions which were inhabited by cattle breeders. And not just for the big cattle breeders but also for poorer breeders, who earned their living with five to ten cows and through other forms of agriculture. The possibility of relocating people to other areas of the country is something that is still being evaluated by authorities.
SOS Children's Villages is active in 132 countries and territories. 444 SOS Children's Villages and 354 SOS Youth Facilities provide more than 60,500 children and youths in need with a new home. More than 135,000 children/youths attend SOS Kindergartens, SOS Schools and SOS Vocational Training Centres. Around 385,000 people benefit from the services provided by SOS Medical Centres, and more than 230,000 people from services provided by SOS Social Centres. SOS Children's Villages also helps in situations of crisis and disaster through emergency relief programmes.
International Press Officer
Tel: +43 1 368 2457 - 2185