Global perspective Human stories

Prolonged cold snap in Peru causes deaths of 60 children, UNICEF says

Prolonged cold snap in Peru causes deaths of 60 children, UNICEF says

Road blocked by huge snowfalls
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with communities in Peru to combat the effects of a cold snap which has killed scores of people as the country’s authorities struggle to deliver supplies to isolated mountain regions in the southern and central regions.

Concerned that children in the area don’t have enough warm clothes or food, the agency is providing them with heavy garments, blankets and basic medicines.

At the same time, UNICEF warned that the situation could worsen drastically with the coldest winter temperatures expected around August or September.

Indications are that more than 80,000 families have been affected by the severe cold, and around 60 children have died from acute respiratory infections, UNICEF said. Access to affected areas continues to be difficult due to precarious road conditions and altitudes of up to 4,000 metres above sea level.

There have also been major losses of livestock as thousands of llamas, sheep and cows – whose meat, milk and wool sustain the indigenous communities in Peru's Andean highlands – have frozen to death, UNICEF said.

Estimates indicate that the severe weather has killed more than 75,000 farm animals, destroyed more than 300,000 hectares of food crops and damaged an additional 347,000 hectares. Most of the inhabitants of the affected areas are poor peasants eking out a living from llama and alpaca herds and subsistence farming.

Quoting health officials, UNICEF said the snow has mostly tapered off, but freezing temperatures plunging to -22° C have persisted, causing many children and elderly people to contract pneumonia – more than 400,000 cases of have been reported – and bronchitis.