Food, seeds and hope – ACT Colombia flood response
Jan 06, 2012
ACT Alliance has just ended its emergency support to Colombians hit by both flooding and violence that affected four million people.
From April-December 2011 ACT Alliance members Christian Aid, Diakonie Katastrofenhilfe, ICCO and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) joined forces to respond to the devastation that struck large parts of the country following torrential rains at the end of 2010 and throughout large periods of 2011.
The support – funded through an ACT emergency appeal – went to those people worst affected. But for all the assistance, many communities still remain vulnerable not only to new floods but also to the armed conflict that continues to afflict many areas of Colombia.
One of the regions worst hit by the floods was the San Juan River in the department of Chocó, a tropical area along Colombia’s Pacific coast. There the rivers broke their banks and not only flooded houses but also washed away the plantations and animals belonging to the afro-colombian and indigenous communities which live there. A serious upshot of the devastation came to light soon after. “Many children as well as adults have suffered hunger during this winter,” said Fernando Chamapuro from the indigenous community, Nuevo Pitalito.
All this in a region which is also one of the most troubled by the armed conflict that the whole country has suffered for decades. For 20 years guerrillas, paramilitaries and the army have been fighting for territorial control of this isolated region of Colombia, terrorising the local population in the process. Armed groups have almost complete control of the area. Their presence makes it risky for people to hunt and fish too far from villages, making it even more difficult for people to provide their own food.
Food kits and seeds
In response to the floods, ACT Alliance member Lutheran World Federation has been providing food aid to the area since April 2011. Food kits have been delivered to address the immediate needs of 200 afro-colombian and indigenous families that lost everything, while seeds for subsistence crops have been distributed to restore food production in the affected communities. “
“It has been an important help for us,” says Chamapuro. “With this we have been able to feed our children.”
Seed distribution is of vital importance, particularly for the indigenous people who subsist by exchanging agricultural produce.
But all these communities remain prone to the effects of new floods. For this reason a central aspect of intervention has been to write emergency contingency plans setting out guidelines on how the communities can better respond collectively to similar disasters in the future.