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At a glance: Peru

Hundreds of thousands affected by devastating floods in Peru

© UNICEF Peru/2017 /Vilca J.
Hermilinda Cabrera and her sons, Aldony, 9, and Elias, 6 months, walk through a flooded road where their house used to be.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Peru have been affected by torrential rains, severe flooding and mudslides. People have lost their homes and belongings, and thousands of children have been left vulnerable.

By Manuel Moreno

CARAPONGO, Peru, 25 March 2017 - Nine-year-old Aldony Cabrera proudly admits to being a Star Wars fan. Carrying his plastic light sabre, he walks through the widespread destruction in Carapongo - a community near Lima, the capital of Peru - caused by some of the worst flooding in decades.

Since the end of January, a sudden and abnormal warming of Pacific waters off Peru known as a Coastal El Niño has led to deadly rains, storms, floods and strong winds.

Around half the country is under a state of emergency and more than 250,000 children have been affected.

Where Aldony’s family home once stood is now a chaotic scene of dried mud and half-buried clothes, furniture and children’s toys. His clothes are dirty and he has a bruise or two on his face, but he is still smiling and strength and courage shine in his eyes.

“The water came up to our knees. The only thing we could do was run for our lives,” says Aldony’s mother, Hermilinda Cabrera, holding in her arms 6-month-old Elias, her baby boy. "We took nothing. We left everything behind."

© UNICEF Peru/2017 /Vilca J.
Teodoro Rivera, 65, and his granddaughter, Cesia, 2, in front of where his house once stood.

‘Run for our lives’

Hermilinda could not believe her ears when a voice resonated through the night warning residents of the imminent danger.

“It was almost 10PM when we heard someone shouting that the river was overflowing,” she remembers. “How could it be possible? I honestly thought it was a bad joke.”

The water, however, was already coming in the house when she got up. She immediately panicked and ran with her children up the hill.

In a matter of minutes, the water destroyed everything in its path and the street became a river.

“We got very scared. We ran without shoes, in our pyjamas. Those that couldn’t get out and away were dragged by the current,” she recounts. “The water was still running strong for at least five days after the flood.”

© UNICEF Peru/2017 /Vilca J.
Despite the flooding, children are still looking for ways to play and need safe spaces.

Widespread destruction

The heavy rains have burst river banks, created mudslides, collapsed bridges, closed roads and forced school to be suspended across the country.

Around 1,000 schools and 380 health facilities have been damaged, and many of them have collapsed.

Peru's northern coast was worst hit by the storms. The heavy rains have stopped for now, but according to the National Office of Meteorology and Hydrography (SENAMHI), it is expected that the rains will increase at the end of March, additionally affecting some parts of the Amazonian area of the country. Peruvian children and families are bracing themselves for another month of flooding.

© UNICEF Peru/2017 /Vilca J.
After the floods, children do not have access to safe water sources.

Safe water, shelter and health care needed

“There is a crucial need for safe drinking water, health and protection of children,” says Maria Luisa Fornara, UNICEF Representative in Peru. “The continuity of education is also at stake, particularly for the most vulnerable and excluded children and adolescents in the affected regions.”

“In the upcoming months there will be great needs in terms of water, shelter and assuring the health care of the population because of water-borne diseases,” she explains.

In support of the government, UNICEF and its partners are ready to respond to provide access to basic local health services, safe water and basic services for children and mothers to prevent disease outbreaks. 

Together we need to make sure that brave children like Aldony receive the support they need and deserve, so that they can be protected, continue their education and thrive again.

>> Read the Peru situation report




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