Bolivia under water

Bolivia is suffering from weeks of heavy rains that are causing rivers to swell, homes to flood, and crops to rot.

More than 58,000 families have been affected over the past month, according to official counts, with 56 people reported dead.

Limited reporting from isolated communities could mean the actual number is significantly higher. A lack of potable water, the destruction of crops and livestock, and the threat of mosquito-born disease all pose long-term risks.

Bolivia’s government says a massive aid operation, which includes food and tents, is well underway, but not everyone is satisfied with the response.

Carmelo Lens, governor of Beni, one of the country’s worst-hit departments, says the government should declare a regional disaster and allow a broad range of international aid organizations into the area, as it did in the past.

Bolivia’s minister of defense, Ruben Saavedra, has rejected Mr. Lens’ request, and said the government will distribute national and international aid to affected areas.

Government aid is now reaching many towns and cities via helicopter and plane, but the Bolivian lowlands are a vast, hard-to-reach area dominated by small indigenous and campesino, or farming, communities.

One of the biggest problems for flooded communities is access to drinking water, because rivers filled with rotting animal carcasses and sewage have inundated wells and other sources of potable water.

As the rainy season winds down next month and waters begin to recede, another challenge will be mosquito-born disease: damp earth expands breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever.

It’s not just the loss of subsistence crops, many of which cannot be replanted until late this year, and disease that will have long-term effects in the Bolivian lowlands. Across the region, raising cattle is an important source of income, and the herds can be a family’s main asset. To date, some 48,000 cattle have drowned or starved to death, according to reports in the national press.


Source |