PISCO, Peru — Following comprehensive emergency assessments and initial relief distributions for Peru earthquake victims, international aid agency Oxfam this week began its humanitarian response in remote, hard-hit rural areas surrounding Pisco. The assistance includes desperately-needed clean water, sanitation services, tents and plastic sheeting for an eventual 1,500 families whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed by the earthquake.
The new aid comes after Oxfam distributed 350,000 litres of potable water in urban-affected areas last week, along with 2,500 blankets among rural families, helping to ease the suffering during the unusually cold winter.
On Tuesday, Oxfam began installing 20 water tanks, which will provide clean and safe water for the first 1,500 people in the countryside, all who live in the rural districts of Humay and Independencia. Oxfam is providing a cistern truck to fill the tanks for a total of 19,000 litres of water every day.
“Our main concern right now is clean water and sanitation because these are absolutely crucial to prevent outbreaks of waterborne diseases. Now, the people of Humay and Independencia, who actually helped us install the tanks with their own hands, are accessing water that is even cleaner than what they had before the earthquake. In the coming weeks we will provide them with training so they can keep the water clean for weeks and months to come,” said Jacobo Ocharán, Oxfam’s emergency response manager.
In the rural districts of Humay and Independencia, located 30 and 12 km outside of Pisco respectively, Oxfam is meeting basic shelter needs while striving to minimize disruptions to the communities. Many of the destroyed homes in these districts are situated on pieces of land with enough space to safely erect a family’s tent. The remaining families are setting up shelters in small camps of 10 to 40 tents in open areas close to their original houses. By providing temporary shelter for individual families, Oxfam’s work will allow inhabitants to remain on their land.
“We are trying to place these tents in familiar settings close to people’s homes to help residents feel less vulnerable. Also, it makes the reconstruction of their homes easier, which is important because we don’t want the temporary shelters to become permanent homes,” said Ocharán.
There have been great improvements in the distribution of aid in the two weeks that have passed since the earthquake struck; however, much work remains to be done. Oxfam is working closely with the international aid community and the government, including local authorities and state institutions, to ensure that aid is being distributed to those who need it most.
“Oxfam field staff are helping local authorities and leaders to assess the damage and the needs of the families affected by the earthquake. This is the only way of ensuring that aid is distributed to the people who really need it, and that it is distributed in an equal and fair way,” said Ocharán. “We’re also trying to continue strengthening residents’ participation in helping provide relief and rehabilitation in their own communities. We know from past experience that when communities are well organized and involved, relief efforts and reconstruction are more likely to succeed.”