Floods and bitter cold snap leave thousands in need of food assistance in Colombia and Peru

Published on 08 February 2007

Severe weather in Latin America - floods in Colombia and a deadly cold snap in Peru -has left nearly 100,000 of some of the continent’s poorest people in need of emergency food assistance, WFP has said.

Severe weather in Latin America - floods in Colombia and a deadly cold snap in Peru -has left nearly 100,000 of some of the continent’s poorest people in need of emergency food assistance, WFP has said.

The worst flooding in decades following an unusually intense rainy season in Colombia has claimed at least 57 lives, with 100 people missing and 443,000 left homeless, their crops

WFP’s food assistance will allow those affected to concentrate on rebuilding their lives and their communities

and animals washed away.

Meanwhile in the Andean mountains of Peru, the coldest weather in thirty years, with sub-freezing temperatures of an average of minus 27, has caused an epidemic of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

At least 70 children under-five have died and 600,000 people have fallen sick.

Poor at risk

“In these types of emergencies, it is the very poor that are always the most affected,” said WFP Latin America Regional Director Pedro Medrano.

“In both these disasters, thousands of families have lost their crops and their livestock. WFP’s food assistance will allow those affected to concentrate on rebuilding their lives and their communities,” he said.

In Colombia, WFP is boosting the government’s relief effort and is drawing up plans to distribute food rations for an initial three months to 50,000 to 60,000 beneficiaries depending on the results of an ongoing emergency food needs assessment.

The assessment is being carried out in 15 municipalities in the Mojana region in the northern part of the country and to indigenous peoples in the west.

Timely response

“The Colombian Government responded in a timely and efficient manner and gave the victims adequate attention, but the number of people together with the prolonged rains has gone beyond everybody’s predictions,” said Praveen Agrawal, Colombia’s Country Director.

In Peru, the agency is going to provide food assistance to more than 34,000 poor people affected by the freezing temperatures as well as respiratory sicknesses caused by the cold.

Emergency food distributions started during the weekend in the town of Chito, in the Department of Vilcashuaman, and are expected to continue during the month of August in the Departments of Ayacucho and Huancavelica.

New cold wave

Despite a recent improvement in the temperatures, the Peruvian National Weather Service (SENAMHI) is warning that a new cold wave is expected to arrive to Peru as soon as tomorrow, Thursday.

In the meantime, in the lower parts of the affected areas up to 4,000 metres above sea level, the whole harvest has been lost to frost and hailstones. In the highest areas, where the only economic activity is the raising of llamas and alpacas, all the animals have died of the cold.

“We are very concerned about the increasing number of people affected by the biting cold temperatures,” said Medrano. “This WFP emergency operation will complement similar government operations being carried in the affected areas,” he said.