Give her clean water ... and you'll give her a healthy future

Earthquake response to focus on water and sanitation

In Peru, Oxfam is rolling out a programme to help people in rural areas access clean water and begin to rebuild their homes and their lives.

As the dust begins to settle in the southern coast of Peru following the 15 August earthquake, Oxfam is finalising its response plan for delivering assistance to some of the most severely-affected rural and urban areas of Pisco.

The death toll from this tragic earthquake now stands at 513, according to Peru’s National Civil Defense Institute. There were at least 1,500 severely injured people. The government further estimates that there are a quarter of a million people whose houses have been either destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the earthquake and numerous aftershocks.

Within hours of the first quake, now estimated to be magnitude 8.0, Oxfam deployed key humanitarian response staff to the Pisco area, soon followed by engineering and water and sanitation experts who toured the area by car and helicopter in order to assess the needs and formulate the best and most effective response.

Oxfam’s assessment work in the earthquake zone was hampered by poor road conditions that made it difficult to move around. Many roadways were impassable, and some bridges were destroyed. There were also serious security problems, with reports of looting and robberies in villages and along some roads.

Oxfam’s team found many rural communities were not receiving any assistance, and decided to devote the bulk of its response to these zones, which are harder to reach on the damaged roads and have not been the subject of media reports. The team found that in some towns 40 to 70 percent of mud brick homes are destroyed, and people are sleeping outdoors in cold weather. This lack of shelter raises the risk of respiratory infections and other health problems. Many communities also do not have clean water. Water systems have been damaged, and people are getting water from whatever sources they can find, such as wells or streams. Damage to sewage lines and latrines have left thousands of people without any sanitation systems, increasing the risk of gastro-intestinal illness.

Oxfam response

Oxfam is setting up an office in the city of Pisco in which 12 humanitarian relief specialists will oversee the organisation’s program in the Humay and Independencia districts of Pisco.

  • Temporary shelter and blankets: Oxfam is bringing in tents and plastic sheeting, and blankets and mattresses for 1,500 families in Humay and Independencia areas. In total, Oxfam anticipates providing 7,500 blankets.
  • Water and sanitation: Oxfam’s program will deliver clean water to 2,500 families in Independencia and Humay, as well as one camp for displaced people outside Pisco city. An initial 450 tents, six water storage bladders that will each hold six cubic meters of water, a 45-cubic-meter water tank, and materials to build 1,000 latrines are being flown to Peru by jet from England to start the water and sanitation assistance.

These are the first steps of an initial, three-month response for which Oxfam is budgeting US$1.3 million. A secondary rehabilitation phase will probably require an additional estimated US$1 million to help farmers in the area rebuild homes and irrigation systems, and build their skills to advocate for equitable distribution of aid, in order to ensure that government assistance helps the poorest communities as well as the more prosperous urban areas.

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