31 May 2017

Peru: Helping families recover from natural disaster

How SOS Children’s Villages has helped communities in Peru, and what still needs to be done

SOS Children's Villages Peru is providing meals and activities for children as part of its flood emergency response. Photographer: Helene Boeser / SOS Netherlands

Helene Boeser of SOS Children’s Villages Netherlands spent nine days evaluating the emergency response in Peru, which is still recovering from March floods and landslides. The disaster left an estimated 1.4 million people in need of assistance, including 400,000 children.

The emergency programme has focused on repairing damages to SOS villages – Esperanza, Chiclayo, and Río Hondo – and helping 860 families and more than 1,000 children in nearby communities. These communities are in the northern coastal city of Chiclayo and six locations in central Chosica and Carapongo.
 
In addition to repairing damaged infrastructure to SOS family homes, the emergency programme has provided community assistance ranging from food distribution, recreational activities for children and emotional support to the communities.
 
Boeser works in institutional fundraising for emergencies at SOS Children’s Villages Netherlands. In the following interview, she discusses SOS CV’s emergency response and the ongoing needs of affected families.

What effect has this natural disaster had on the children and families you met?

The children I met used to have safe homes and a place to play. They have lost everything as a consequence of the disaster, even basic things like clothes and school books. Many people have not only lost their homes, but also their livelihoods. For example, I met a mother with seven children. She used to work in the local factory which was damaged and closed. This means a downfall to extreme poverty for many families. Some schools collapsed, but luckily all children are back to school now.
 
Emotional well-being is given a lot of attention in the SOS Children’s Villages response. Many of the parents I met talked about their children suffering from sleeping problems or other effects since the disaster struck. Mental health support was and is still needed.

You were there two months after the worst flooding and landslides. Are there signs of recovery?

The flooding and mudslides affected an estimated 1.4 million people in Peru, and one-third of these are children. In communities where we are working, families whose homes were lost or damaged are still living in tents and often there is no electricity and running water.  With the winter to come, the needs will only increase. The communities have little trust in the government, which says it will provide temporary homes.
 
Water and sanitation conditions are not good: there are not enough toilets and showers. Many people are relying on bottled water, and other water supplies are often polluted. In Carapongo, the river flowing next to the tents is coming from the sewage system. So there are real health risks to children.
 
SOS Children’s Villages Peru initially distributed food, water and emergency kits. We continue to provide day care and leisure activities for children ages 2 to 15, such as sports, workshops and arts. These activities are important for both the safety and emotional well-being of the children. SOS is also working on keeping children on track with their education by offering reinforcement classes. These activities also help the parents by giving them time to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.

How important is the SOS Children’s Villages emergency response in this situation?

SOS Peru was already located in the areas of response. SOS Children’s Village is there to stay, and it was among the first to respond. In Chosica, the emergency team carried food and emergency goods to the communities by foot, as the roads were not accessible. In many cases SOS Children’s Villages is the only organisation still working in some of the affected communities, so children and families depend on us.
 
SOS Peru has also been able to provide tailor-made help for children and families, for example, for those with disabilities. We have good relationships with the families and they appreciate what we do. SOS Children’s Villages is trusted by the communities and government. There is now hope that the emergency programme can be transitioned into providing longer-term family strengthening in the communities where we are working.

Background

Torrential March rains triggered flooding and landslides in many parts of Peru, killing an estimated 100 people and affecting 1.4 million others. SOS Peru launched an emergency response programme to help affected families through the middle of June.

The following SOS Children’s Villages in central and northern Peru were affected:
 
  • At the SOS Children’s Village Esperanza, heavy rains have damaged the roofs of family houses causing leaks and some infrastructure damage. There are 38 children living in eight SOS families.
  • SOS Children’s Village Río Hondo is the home of eleven SOS families, with a total of 54 children. This village is located on the bank of the Rímac River. Three SOS families were temporarily moved to other homes during the worst of the flooding.
  • In northern Peru, SOS Children’s Village Chiclayo suffered damage when heavy rainfall overwhelmed the public sewerage service and disrupted water and power supplies. In order to prevent further damage, the 12 SOS families (57 children) moved temporarily to safe places. All the families returned to the village and are safe and healthy.

Learn more about how we support children and families in emergencies

More about our work in Peru