Sunday, October 28, 2007

Relief needs of communities impacted by recent flooding

The recent heavy rains and flooding in El Salvador hit communities in the Lower Lempa region where the Lempa River empties into the Pacific Ocean. US solidarity organizations who work in the region have been spreading the word about the needs of affected families in the region, which go beyond being rescued from the physical danger of the rising water.

From Voices on the Border:

I am sorry to report that the Bajo Lempa is once again flooding - for the second week in a row. I just got off the phone with VOTB staff on the ground who report that the swollen Rio Lempa and more heavy rains are causing even worse flooding than last week. United States Geological Service reports that almost 8 inches of rain fell and that the Rio Lempa rose almost 12 feet in less than 24 hours.

As of 4:00 EST, United Communities personnel, the new Lower Lempa rescue squad, and other volunteers had evacuated 85 families from a number of communities, and are expecting to evacuate many more in the coming hours.

International aid organizations are promising assistance but it will take a couple days to get there. Until then, VOTB will be using its Emergency Response Fund to provide fuel for the evacuation vehicles and food/shelter for the evacuees.

In addition to the loss of personal property, the long-term impact of this second flood is serious. Crops that were not damaged last week will most likely be lost now, resulting in food shortages for the coming year. In addition, there are a number of related public health concerns; the government, however has recently withdrawn the doctors that used to staff the three health clinics in the Bajo Lempa leaving the region without access to health care facilities.


From Foundation for Self Sufficiency in Central America:
Heavy rains overwhelmed regions of Central America, including many communities in Bajo Lempa and Puerto Parada.The weeklong deluge forced the evacuation of almost 100 families from the communities.

While we’re grateful the number of families affected is relatively small, these families are in dire need. They’ve not only lost many belongings due to flooding, but also their corn and vegetable crops that provided for their food and income.

From US-El Salvador Sister Cities:

Seventy-one households, totaling 199 people, were displaced as a result of the flooding in the Bajo Lempa region during the last week. Five communities were affected, including Santa Marta I, Santa Marta II, Taura, La Sabana, and San Jerónimo. Four of the communities returned on Tuesday, October 23, with the last remaining community Santa Marta II returning on Thursday, October 25. While displaced, communities were housed in a variety of locations, including schools, churches, and CRIPDES offices.

In addition to heavy rains, the flooding can be attributed to two central causes. First, the dam continues to be opened, thus sending more water into the Bajo Lempa region. Second, the levies that were constructed to protect these communities were damaged during tropical storm Stan. Some areas were not repaired and those that were repaired have proven weak. Thus the levies are not able to hold the banks of the Lempa when the dam is opened.

Remaining areas of concern include health, food security, and crop loss. Health concerns are in large part related to significant amounts of standing water. Mosquito-born viruses, such as Dengue fever, are a concern. Both immediate and long-term food security remains an issue. Crop losses in both the upper and lower regions will be significant. Flooding in the lower regions damaged the corn crop and heavy rains have damaged the bean crop in the upper regions. Exact losses will not be known until water has further receded and the fields have dried out some.


From SHARE Foundation:
This year has been a difficult one for farmers in El Salvador. During the months of June and July, a drought caused a loss of one harvest, leaving many people to pin their hopes to the second harvest, coming in September and October. Then this week disaster struck, heavy rains have caused high crop loss and have forced many families to evacuate.

Consider supporting any of these organizations who will be working with their partners in El Salvador to support the impacted communities.

For more, read this blog post by Natalie Foxworthy, a Peace Corps Volunteer in an area impacted by the rains.

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