Vital Food Brings Back “The Hope” to the Paraguayan Chaco

First it was the drought. Then the unusual heavy rains and floods washed away Cristina Garcia and her family's belongings, livelihoods and food. Two months later, she and her family were on the verge of leaving their small shack and plot, and move with their children to a nearby farm to work (including the children) so they could eat. Just in time WFP and the Government of Paraguay began food distributions in their community.

Cristina Garcia lives in a village in the community of La Esperanza (The Hope, in English) in the Paraguayan Chaco, at some 237km from the city of Asuncion. This year was tough for Cristina and her family –husband, daughter and grandchildren—since the climatic events in the region were unprecedented.

Being 52 years old, Cristina does not recall having even been in such a rough condition. First the drought, then the floods, made the fish they usually eat vanish, made two of their four egg-laying chickens drown, and lost their crops of pumpkin and potatoes. They were left without the everyday life sustenance, and in order not to face hunger they sacrificed the two surviving hens to feed their grandchildren.

With the floods, Cristina’s village became isolated for nearly two months. It was then that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) with the support of the National Emergency Secretariat (SEN) of Paraguay brought hope to the community.

“Little before the arrival of the food and due to the extreme situation we were living in, we were on the verge of abandoning all our belongings and our small piece of land… We were all going to be employed, including the children, in a nearby farm so that we could eat,” says Cristina, with an almost choked voice.

bowl scooping beansHelp that feeds La Esperanza
Today is the day of food distribution in La Esperanza and Cristina is happy. Since last month’s distribution, all Cristina has left to feed her grandchildren are beans. She is excited because starting tomorrow she will also have rice, flour and vegetable oil for cooking.

“Above all the rice and the flour are of great help because they are basic food staples. Before I send my grandchildren to school, I prepare them pireca (flour tortilla) so that they will not study with an empty stomach.”

That day, Cristina prepared beans for lunch, since she had nothing else at her disposal. “Tomorrow we will eat better,” she says smiling while serving her grandchildren the beans that she cooked.

The entire family misses the pumpkins and potatoes they used to eat before the floods. The Garcia family estimates that they will have to wait until December to harvest such items because soil conditions do not allow planting crops. They have a few chicks they saved that, although sick now, they must wait in order recuperate and make them grow until they lay eggs in the coming months.

Despite of all the rough times she has been through, one can see hope on Cristina’s eyes when she sees the arriving WFP truck with food items. In La Esperanza, the typical semi-arid community of El Chaco which was affected by unusually torrential rains this year, confidence flourishes again