Rapid Response to Deadly Brazil Flooding

Richard Hoffman, Country Representative for Brazil, reports on recent flooding that sent tens of thousands fleeing their homes.

In less than a week, an equivalent of four months of heavy rain saturated eastern coastal and northern sections of the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Rivers swelled above their banks and resulting mudslides caused several fatalities as well as damaging homes and property.

About 119 flood-related deaths have been reported. We have tallies of 45,000 people displaced from their homes, of which 28,000 have suffered a total loss of residence. Authorities calculate that one quarter of the state’s population was affected one way or the other by the severe flooding.

Santa Catarina is located in the relatively more developed southern part of Brazil. It has a large European immigrant population, includlng many villages with large concentrations of Brazilians of German, Italian, Ukrainian and other descents. The area worst affected by the recent floods contains both small farms as well as more urban areas.

This is the second time Brazil has faced major floods this year. We faced a similar crisis in April in Northeast, and because we were so quick to respond along with our partners at Caritas, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) contacted us and asked to work with us to help alleviate the suffering in Santa Catarina, of course once more in cooperation with Caritas and local Civil Defense authorities.

We will be overseeing the relief effort that Caritas is implementing in the region. The Brazilian government was quick to respond and is carefully coordinating efforts to avoid duplication and assure that the most needy families are assisted. CRS and Caritas will be focusing on the three municipalities of Blumenau, Ilhota, and Itajaí.

The OFDA-funded assistance will be of two kinds: distribution of 900 family emergency kits; and provision of 400 mattress and bedding sets. Each of the family emergency kits provides basic supplies for about five persons and contains items to help improve health and hygiene (for instance, items such as shampoo, toothpaste, diapers, soap, shampoo, detergent, buckets, brooms, mops, etc.) The cleaning materials are very important, as clean-up is an urgent task at the moment. It’s also an essential way of preventing spread of disease.

While the 900 family kits will be divided among the three municipalities mentioned above, the 400 mattress and bedding sets will be delivered to shelters in Blumenau.

Proctor and Gamble also donated 4,000 packages of disposable diapers and 23,000 units of cleaning materials, all channeled to CRS to distribute through this ongoing cooperative project with Caritas Santa Catarina.

Although decreased rains and subsiding floodwaters have enabled about 40,000 people to return to their homes, CRS and Caritas are cooperating with Civl Defense authorities to make sure that the estimated 45,000 persons still displaced from their homes – some currently in shelters and some with family or friends – all receive appropriate basic assistance.

The total of the OFDA-funded relief effort is $100,000. It is a process very similar to what we went through in April, coordinating with the various emergency response actors to make sure that those most in need are identified and that these persons receive at this time the items they need to maintain basic health and hygiene.

Caritas of course has plans for assisting flood-affected families over the longer term, with focus on restoration of economic livelihood. CRS will maintain dialogue with Caritas about these later phases, while currently focusing on post-emergency responses, through the generous assistance of the US government.

CRS is very pleased that there has been a generous local and international response to the flood emergency in Santa Catarina and that, after our recent positive cooperation at the time of the Northeast floods, OFDA contacted CRS so quickly to request continued cooperation to assist on the latest flood emergency. We are proud to have been able to help and glad that the US government recognizes CRS and Caritas as reliable partners when disaster strikes.

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