Bolivia Floods – Red Cross Support for Health, Hygiene and Sanitation

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Red Cross Press Release Bolivia – 21 February, 2014

According to reports from the Bolivian Meteorological Service, although the rainy season in Bolivia started in November 2013, the rains intensified significantly this year, causing several floods, overflowing rivers and landslides which blocked access to affected communities.

Many families that live in these communities are from indigenous groups that depend on agriculture for food and their livelihoods, and have been seriously affected by these floods. 36,726 crops are reported damaged since the rains began in November 2013. The main impact has been on corn and vegetable crops which are the most common in the country. The disruption affects not just the current harvest, but also damages resources available to start the harvest cycle once again.

Animal farming has also been affected, farmers associations estimate that as many as 42,000 heads of cattle have been affected. “The estimation of damage in the department of Beni is particularly difficult, as many areas are still inaccessible and we may find that initial figures were in fact lower than the actual damage,” said Felipe Del Cid IFRC Disaster Management Delegate.

According to the Ministry of Civil Defence, the main need is the provision of safe water in the shelters that have been open to house 7,000 affected families. At the moment they are being supplied with bottled and rain water. Heavy rains have also resulted in the spread of disease, with the Ministry of health reporting 117 suspected dengue cases and more than 260 confirmed, as well as three suspected  cases of Hantavirus. In response, the Ministry of Health activated its Disaster Contingency Plan.

The Vice Ministry of Civil Defence in Beni has highlighted the need for food and water as well as other relief items. The shelter working group reports, that as of 10 February, 1,067 families in 42 collective centres nationwide require blankets, food and mosquito nets. In a meeting with international organizations, the Vice Minister highlighted the urgent need for tents. Currently 6,997 units are needed to establish camps due to the fact that schools and other available buildings are already being used for relief.

“Given the large number of people in shelters, the need to develop health and hygiene promotion activities is immediate. Household visits in communities affected by the floods are also necessary. Moreover, some health centres have been affected by floods, and others have limited capacity to provide services to the affected population, a situation further complicated by the fact that many communities are still rendered inaccessible or there is restricted access do to landslides and floods,” added Del Cid.

Since the rains began, the Bolivian Red Cross has been assisting local authorities with evacuations and rapid assessments, through its network of branches in the affected areas. “Our headquarters in La Paz, has been in constant communication with the branches, as well as participating in coordination meetings with the Vice Minister of Defence, the United Nations, European Union representatives and other international organizations in Bolivia,” said Bolivian Red Cross President Abel Peña y Lillo Tellería.

To support the Bolivian Red Cross request for Disaster Relief Emergency Funds, 331,399 Swiss francs to assist 4,500 beneficiaries, the IFRC mobilized its Disaster Management Delegate to help develop the response and to coordinate with other humanitarian organizations. Working with local authorities the Bolivian Red Cross will assist some 900 families though livelihood activities, local market development, health, water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion.

In order to assist communities in the re-establishment of livelihoods the Bolivian Red Cross, with support from the IFRC, will be carrying out a feasibility study to determine if a cash transfer programme is suitable for the operation, considering the effects this may have on local markets. By providing this support the Bolivian Red Cross hopes to reduce the possibility of families selling their remaining assets to satisfy their most urgent needs. Dr. Ruben Gonzales National Disaster Response Unit  Coordinator, said: “This type of response is something new and it should be used in this opportunity.”

The Bolivian Red Cross will also seek to complement health care services provided by the governmental authorities by carrying out community-based health promotion campaigns with the support of community leaders. A key component will be hygiene promotion in collective centres to help reduce the risk of spreading diseases in highly populated shelters. “Education in community based health is highly important and needs our greatest attention,” said Dr. Jose Michel National Health Coordinator.

Flood waters will remain on the flood plain for another two months, the livelihoods of the families being assisted will continue to be affected during this period. The Bolivian Red Cross will continue to support those affected.

For further information or interview requests contact:

In Bolivia:

  • Ana Rosa Boyan, communications director, Bolivian Red Cross
  • Tel : +591 2 2202930
  • Email:

In Panama:

  • Enrique Jair Guevara, communications officer, Americas
  • Tel: +507 66707365
  • Email:
  • Twitter:@IFRC_es