Snow storms spark emergency response in Peru
Practical Action worked with other agencies in an emergency response following massive snow storms that devastated the lives of the poor farmers we work with in Peru.
Temperatures in the Andean mountains at the start of September 2013 plunged to their lowest levels in decades, killing tens of thousands of animals, including alpacas that they depend on to survive. Homes were destroyed and crops were ruined. Around 100,000 people living in the vulnerable mountain communities were affected.
Practical Action has several projects in these areas, and people with whom we work were affected.
But a swift emergency response by Practical Action and other agencies, including local experts trained by Practical Action, made a significant difference and helped farmers to start rebuilding their lives.
How we responded to the emergency
Practical Action is member of the group of emergency attention that is coordinated by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), and this group becomes automatically installed when a disaster strikes. Regional and central governments and the Disaster Risk Management Secretary helped people in areas they could access by providing blankets, clothing, shelter, food, bales of hay for cattle, blankets, beds, mattresses, medicines and clothing.
Practical Action co-ordinated a network of Kamayoqs (para-vets) that we had trained, to help channel aid to more remote areas.
The training that they had received, combined with their local knowledge of the regions where they live, helped us to get aid to communities in remote rural areas. They made a real difference in this crisis.
Practical Action also helped to intervene directly in the affected areas of Cusco, Puno and Apurimac that we work in. Our priorities were for emergency care and rehabilitation, including:
Helping farmers and livestock owners recover
- Providing technical assistance for livelihood recovery
- Forage storage and handling to ensure animals get the food they need
- Providing drugs to control animal epidemics in affected communities
- Providing shifting cultivation seeds to help recover supply of crops
Improving housing conditions and water service
- Providing technical assistance for homes and schools
- Reinforcing homes affected by the snow
- Building community shelters to ensure the affected communities have a roof over their heads
- Rehabilitating water systems and community water sources
- Providing safe water in affected communities
Coordination and institutional technical support
- Supporting and advising the emergency operations centres
- Providing technical assistance in damage assessment and needs analysis
- Training for local and community teams for the proper handling of the emergency
- Installing risk management disaster working groups and civil defense platforms, for a timely emergency response
- Coordinating and deploying Kamayoqs to isolated areas to distribute aid
- Coordinating with DIPECHO partners and other institutions to coordinate intervention strategies
- Supporting students and academics in technical and social assistance
Even a normal winter can be hard
Winter in the Andes, which runs from May to September, is tough already for vulnerable farming communities – temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees.
It’s impossible to adequately describe the environment in which they live. High in the Andean mountains, some 4,000 feet above sea level, the cold is brutal. The land is barren, capable of producing little more than potatoes. Homes are made of mud with no basic services.
Families struggle daily to make enough money from selling the wool from their alpacas. The commitment these families make to their alpaca livelihoods under such difficult circumstances is moving.