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Colombia: The byways of a district in the grip of water

Terre des hommes (Tdh) - Switzerland - Mon, 25 Jun 2012 10:03 GMT
Author: NO_AUTHOR
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3398_colombiefloods_embed In order to get to the Villa Jimenez district, you must be gifted with a sixth sense. Situated on the edge of the town of Monteria, the district does not appear on any map, although there are more than 3,000 people crammed into this patch of land taken over by force eight years ago by families fleeing from the armed conflict. But today the conflict is still raging, and as if that were not enough, this community has to face cyclic flooding.

On Tuesday 19th June, when the first rain started to descend on Villa Jimenez, the inhabitants organised themselves as best they could to cope with the disaster ahead. Whilst some people raised their beds on bricks, others tried to block the leaks in their roofs and to protect their food stocks. But there was little enough they could do and many families woke up with their feet in cold water.

Tdh, who has been working in this community since the beginning of the year, quickly made a first analysis of the needs with the community agents. The initial balance is critical: the streets are impassable, in some houses the level of water has risen to more than 40cm and the stagnant water is a real danger for the spread of diarrhoeic illness and infections. In this sort of disaster, children are most often the most at risk, as Diana explains, the mother of four children who could not send her daughters to school for the past two days. One of the children has signs of skin irritation on her arms, which is not surprising in the unhealthy conditions they live in.

First measures have been taken to minimise the consequences of a rainy season that has not yet really started. Tdh supplied the community with a pump to drain off the stagnant water, and a campaign for the prevention of water-borne diseases was realised in collaboration with the health centre of Monteria. In the next few days, water filters will be distributed to the affected families.

3399_colombiefloodstdh_embed Tdh, with the support of the community and the town council, also envisages the cleaning of a drainage canal for rain water that is obstructed after years of accumulated waste and sediment. This work would enable long-term avoidance of flood risks. It would, of course, be accompanied by a process of awareness-making about hygiene and waste management.

According to Franscisco Ochoa, one of the leaders of Villa Jimenez, fate seems to dog this community, which never manages to lick its wounds. And in a region devastated by years of violence, the environment in its turn plays nasty tricks.

Further information on www.tdh.ch

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