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At a glance: Peru

Children die as severe weather hits Peru

© Intervida
Children struggle to survive as temperatures plummet

LIMA, Peru, 15 July 2004 - UNICEF is launching an urgent appeal to help hundreds of thousands of children facing starvation and disease as a result of severe cold weather in Peru.

Snowstorms and heavy rain have afflicted the south and central highlands, where temperatures have dropped to -26C. The situation is expected to worsen over the next couple of months as winter closes in.

Fifty infants and children have died since June, while 1.4 million people are suffering from life-threatening respiratory infections such as pneumonia. In the worst-affected region, three-quarters of the population already live in poverty and half the children are chronically malnourished.

UNICEF Representative in Peru Andres Franco says that emergency aid is essential, but these communities also need help to prepare for winter weather.

“We really need to prevent this from happening,” he says. “There is a big responsibility on the part of the government and the regional authorities to avoid having to wait until we see the face of death to react.

“After we provide emergency relief we need to prepare these communities for next year, because we can’t afford to make the death of children during cold snaps part of normal life in Peru.”

Hundreds of homes and buildings, including 80 schools, have collapsed under the weight of snow, which has also blocked roads, destroyed grazing land and killed herds of cattle.

The government in Peru has been overwhelmed by the scale of the emergency and is struggling to reach remote mountain areas where aid is critical. UNICEF is working with local communities to provide children with warm clothing and basic medicines, but further international assistance is urgently needed.



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15 July 2004: Andres Franco, UNICEF’s representative in Peru, describes the emergency.

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