Nelson surveys his Chacra, the name that is given in Peru to plots of land for farming. He has planted mangoes here, along with other fruit trees. These fruits hang in abundance from the trees, and lay on the soil showing their yellow, red and green colours, ready to be eaten. Some are surrounded by bees enjoying the sweet flavours, others have been devoured by the farmers’ pigs roaming around, and many others remain intact. They will rot.
“We haven’t been able to harvest anything in the last months,” Nelson said. “We can’t move the fruit to sell it outside and look how is wasting away.”
This is San Martín de Malinga, a community in the Piura area of Peru, completely isolated from the city and commercial activities. Its roads have been destroyed.
This community of 30 families is facing a deep economic crisis. They were moved by the government to tents provided by the army next to the parish church, — a church that flood victims prefer to use as shelter. Absolutely everyone had to evacuate their homes which were engulfed during a mudslide.
Access to this area is extremely difficult. It takes more than two and a half hours to get to the shelter from Piura city centre. The roads that are useable are covered with mud, and river crossings are more dangerous using bridges supported by plastic buoys. In other areas people use carts to transport food and other goods so they can survive on the mud.
As the Peruvian Red Cross staff enters the area to carry out a damage assessment, people leave their Chacras to ask for help; everyone has a story to tell. After having travelled many hours through cracked roads by three-wheeled motorcycles, crossing torrential rivers, the humanitarian team finally get to the affected houses. These are mainly located along a clearing in the middle of banana and mango plantations, where some animals that survived the battering of the waters have also found a place to stay.
All that is left of some houses are the roofs, now laying on the ground, while other clay houses are cracked, and looking inside you can see the scene of the disaster: furniture destroyed, kitchens sunken and closets flooded in mud. The floor is just an swampground packed with mosquitoes.
“We are alive, that is what matters, but the pain is strong, I lost my brother,” said Zulaina, who found out about her brother’s death three days after the flooding of the rivers. He drowned in the flooding of one of Malinga rivers while he was returning home, leaving his wife and three children. “We found his body because of the ravens,” she said.
The emotional blow they have to endure is devastating. The huaicos (a name locally given to the mud swept by the rivers) have buried their lives. They have lost their homes and their peace of mind, some have lost their loved ones, their health is in danger, and their livelihoods are destroyed.
The Red Cross staff is carrying out a damage assessment and distributing cards for receiving humanitarian aid that will arrive during the next days.
In response to this emergency, the IFRC and the Peruvian Red Cross have launched an emergency appeal for 3.9 million Swiss francs (USD 4 million) to support 50,000 people in the worst affected departments of Piura, Tumbes, Lambayeque and La Libertad. Red Cross volunteers will work with communities to help in the recovery of livelihoods and in the implementation of epidemic and disease control and prevention measures.
The worst floods in decades has affected nearly 700,000 people in Peru. In response, IFRC and the Peruvian Red Cross have launched an appeal to support 50,000 people in the worst affected areas.