Flood Response in Bolivia

April 1, 2014 • Bolivia

Samaritan's Purse is helping after heavy rains created catastrophic conditions

Families in San Lorenzo, Bolivia, are living in makeshift tents along the roads after severe flooding displaced 80 percent of the community.

“We lost everything, even our crops and livestock,” Juan Carlos Mamani said.

Help Flood Victims in BoliviaFloodwaters destroyed the Mamani family’s property, leaving Juan Carlos, his wife, and three children with without a roof over their heads or a way to earn income. They rely on farming bananas and yucca, as well as raising chickens, ducks, and pigs, to provide for themselves.

“It is hard living in a tent,” he said. “But we must be patient until the water drops and we are able to build a new house.”

Samaritan’s Purse was working in the community of San Lorenzo with agriculture, livestock, health and hygiene, and water projects prior to the flood. The Mamani children participated in health trainings and were well equipped to avoid getting sick during the crisis.

“We now know how to take care of ourselves,” they said to our staff.

Samaritan's Purse has helped about 750 families, including the Mamanis.

Samaritan’s Purse has helped about 750 families, including the Mamanis.

Juan Carlos said that the Bolivian government provided enough food to get them through the month and Samaritan’s Purse supplied them with a hygiene kit including soap, towels, toilet paper, toothbrushes, and more.

 “We thank God because He always remembers us,” the community leader said.

Heavy and persistent rains in January caused the major rivers in Bolivia to overflow, creating catastrophic flooding that destroyed livestock, crops, and homes and claimed at least 56 lives.

Samaritan’s Purse responded by mobilizing staff and resources to flood-affected areas where we are providing aid to victims of the disaster. Samaritan’s Purse has helped 750 families so far.

We also deployed a medical team to provide aid to victims of the flood.

Since 2011, Samaritan’s Purse has operated the Ruth Bell boat, a mobile medical clinic, along the Mamore and Isiboro Rivers, providing services to vulnerable families. The two main rivers it navigates are among the most affected by the current flood. In mid-February, the boat began a trip with a group of doctors and dentists from World Medical Mission who are working along our national staff to bring relief to those in need. The doctors on the Ruth Bell have treated a total of 904 patients in two voyages.

Heavy rains in Bolivia have destroyed homes and killed at least 56 people.

Heavy rains in Bolivia have destroyed homes and killed at least 56 people.

We’re working through local ministry partners, including the local Christian Evangelic Union church, which has agreed to let Samaritan’s Purse use its property as a staging point for our relief efforts.

Rainfall began in October 2013, but it did not become a national concern until January 25 when flooding caused significant casualties in the communities of Rurrenabaque and San Buena Aventura. On January 27, the Bolivian government declared a state of emergency, following reports that 80 municipalities had been affected.

The Bolivian department of Beni, where Samaritan’s Purse has a regional office, is one of the worst affected areas. Nearly 4,000 families are currently displaced, some having been sent to shelters or relocated to tents along the roads of the city of Trinidad.

We have not yet given any out any blue plastic for this response, but our staff members are seeing Samaritan's Purse tarps all over the place. "Apparently, people saved the tarps we handed out in the 2008 flood and were able to use them in the current flood," one team member said. "Pretty amazing!"

We have not yet given any out any blue plastic for this response, but our staff members are seeing Samaritan’s Purse tarps all over the place. ”Apparently, people saved the tarps we handed out in the 2008 flood and were able to use them in the current flood,” one team member said. ”Pretty amazing!”

On February 4, the departmental government of Beni requested aid from local NGOs, giving Samaritan’s Purse the green light to respond.

As rainwaters from the valleys make their way to the Amazon Basin, the situation is expected to worsen significantly. River communities are encouraged to evacuate to displacement camps. Local farmers are resistant to move due to the fear of losing livestock during the flood. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of the population will remain in the affected area, exposing them to additional danger.

Samaritan’s Purse has been meeting needs of Bolivia flood victims by distributing hygiene kits and other non-food items like blankets and jerry cans with chlorine solution (to purify water). In partnership with local churches, we have distributed more than 800 hygiene kits and jerry cans and more than 1,300 bottles of chlorine solution and blankets to hundreds of families in flooded areas. The water system we set up is providing for 107 families.

Flood victims were unable to purchase these items because they were unavailable in local markets and many people simply couldn’t afford them.

Our ministry program is also reaching out to pray with affected families. The team was already doing evangelism and discipleship in these communities before the flood, and they will continue afterward. As water levels drop and families start to rebuild their lives, our staff will work to help the affected get back on their feet.