UN bolsters aid efforts in Panama as floods worsen

2 December 2008

United Nations humanitarian agencies have stepped up their assistance in Panama, where at least 10 people have been killed and nearly 24,000 others affected by floods and heavy rains and the number of affected areas continues to grow.

Food, water and blankets are the priority needs, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today, as weather forecasts predict that heavy rains are expected to continue in the Central American country at least until Thursday.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has dispatched 22,000 family hygiene kits and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is providing water jugs, water tanks and water purification talks.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and OCHA are also providing cash to help with relief items and needs assessments, while the World Food Programme (WFP) has already started delivering high-energy biscuits to those in need.

The initial impact of the floods and rains was confined to Panama’s Caribbean coast, and there the provinces of Bocas del Toro and Colón have been hard hit. But a state of emergency has also been declared in Chiriquí province on the Pacific coast, and at the opposite end of the country, Darién province is on high alert as local rivers reach critical levels.

In total, more than 23,600 people have been affected and the number is likely to grow as some communities in Bocas del Toro cannot yet be reached. About 200 homes have been entirely destroyed and almost 1,200 others were badly damaged, while numerous roads and bridges have been rendered unusable.

Panamanian authorities are leading the relief efforts, and are being assisted by the local Red Cross. So far, nearly 12,000 people have made their way to 44 temporary shelters.


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