UN to provide food for tens of thousands hit by floods in Colombia, deep freeze in Peru

UN to provide food for tens of thousands hit by floods in Colombia, deep freeze in Peru

The United Nations is helping to provide emergency food to nearly 100,000 people after the worst floods in decades in Colombia and the coldest weather in 30 years in Peru brought even more misery to over 1 million of Latin America’s most impoverished inhabitants.

“In these types of emergencies, it is the very poor that are always the most affected,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Latin America Regional Director Pedro Medrano said today. “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.”

In Colombia, where an unusually intense rainy season has claimed at least 57 lives, with 100 people missing, and left 443,000 people homeless, with their crops and animals washed away, WFP is boosting the Government’s relief effort and drawing up plans to distribute food rations for an initial three months to 50,000 to 60,000 beneficiaries.

“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,” WFP Country Director Praveen Agrawal said.

In Peru, where sub-freezing temperatures averaging minus 27 have caused an epidemic of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, killing at least 70 children under five and sickening 600,000 other people, the agency is going to provide food to more than 34,000 beneficiaries.

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

Despite a recent improvement in temperatures, the Peruvian National Weather Service (SENAMHI) is warning that a new cold wave is expected to arrive as soon as this week. 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 raising 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,” Mr. Medrano said. “This WFP emergency operation will complement similar government operations being carried in the affected areas.”