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Bolivia, Plurinational State of

Bolivia’s worst floods in decades displace families and disrupt children’s lives

© UNICEF Bolivia/2007/Ramírez
To escape floods, thousands of families from the Bolivian departments of Santa Cruz and Beni are living in tents by the roadside.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 12 March 2007 – Much of Bolivia’s department of Beni today lies underwater. Since December, heavy rains have caused major rivers to overflow in the area, destroying crops, drowning cattle and isolating communities.

Across the country, as many as 400,000 people have been affected by the worst floods in 25 years.

The humanitarian situation remains critical in Beni, which lies in Bolivia’s Amazon plain. In the municipality of Trinidad, 40 per cent of flood victims are children now living with their parents in provisional shelters set up in public schools or in tents.

“Overnight, our patio was filled with water,” said Lucien Sanchez, 8, whose family had to abandon their home. “When we went to sleep at night, there was nothing, and then when we got up we were surrounded by water and we had to leave our house because it was completely flooded.”

© UNICEF Bolivia/2007/Ramírez
Due to poor water and sanitation conditions, children in the Bolivian flood zone are vulnerable to diarrhoea and respiratory diseases.

Medical attention for children

Health authorities in the affected communities are concerned over the potential for water- and sanitation-related diseases. Getting medical attention to children has become a priority.

“We’ve had a lot of problems – acute respiratory infections, skin infections typical of mud and all the problems associated with unsafe water,” said Dr. Carlos Castedo from Beni’s Department of Health. Dr. Castedo noted that digestive and diarrhoeal illnesses were becoming common among children.

“The worst has yet to come when the waters return and infections break out again,” he added.

Resuming daily life

In the Departments of Santa Cruz, Beni and Cochabamba, UNICEF and its partners are providing humanitarian assistance in the areas of water, sanitation, food, shelter and education.

“The high percentage of girls and boys that are suffering from the floods in the city of Trinidad means that we need to concentrate our emergency response efforts on maintaining health, ensuring protection and promoting children’s return to classes,” said the UNICEF Representative in Bolivia, Gordon Jonathan Lewis, during a visit to Trinidad.

Mr. Lewis pointed out that UNICEF has been striving to provide children with school and recreational activities to help them gradually return to their regular daily activities.




12 March 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on the situation in the flooded Bolivian municipality of Trinidad, located in the Amazonian department of Beni.
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