Peru Neighbors Serve Each Other During El Niño Flooding

People carry their belongings on their heads after intense flooding in Peru.

In March 2017, storms created by the effects of El Niño dumped over 43 inches of rain on the heart of Peru. The coastal department of Piura, home to several Water Mission community projects, was the second most affected area. The unusually heavy rainfall destroyed more than 400,000 homes and claimed at least four lives in Piura.

Water Mission’s project in Loma Negra, a community in Piura, was commissioned in September 2016. It provides nearly 2,600 people with access to safe water. Since last September, the Safe Water Committee (SWC) in Loma Negra has proactively sought to strengthen the success of their project by using some of the income created from usage fees to hire an additional part-time operator who keeps things running smoothly on a daily basis.

After the flooding started, the Loma Negra SWC had their hands full trying to meet the safe water needs in their community. Crops, animals, supplies, and houses were wiped out by the record rainfall that lasted three months earlier this year. The residents literally lost everything including access to the town which was limited to foot traffic only after the weather cleared. To make matters worse, residents had to pay $5 for a single load of supplies to be carried into town by donkey, a price that was more than 10 times the normal rate.

Water Mission staff meet with community members in Peru.

Despite the fact that they were busy addressing the dire needs of their own community, the Loma Negra SWC still made time to care for their neighbors. Victims from the communities of Viduque, Pedegral Chico, and Simbila were relocated to dry land in the farming area of Catacaos near Loma Negra. The displaced people urgently needed access to safe water. Loma Negra’s SWC met with local authorities to discuss ways they could help provide water to these families seeking refuge in Catacaos.

Water Mission in Peru

After the meeting, the SWC began preparing to go. They and other volunteers from Loma Negra collected pots for rice storage, food, and clothing donated by community members. The greatest obstacle to delivering the water and supplies was the flooded road that blocked any transportation except for foot traffic. The Loma Negra’s SWC had to transport the safe water by using donkeys to pull carts that carried up to 500-liter (132 gallons) containers, each weighing more than 1,000 lbs., over wet dirt roads. They walked over three miles with the donkeys to reach the people in Catacaos.

“These volunteers and the Safe Water Committee members took great care for those who lost everything,” says Liliana Soberon, a Water Mission Peru community development specialist, who was in Piura at the time of the flooding. “They worked hard to not only care for their own community and families but for the common good of those around them.”

Citizens of Loma Negra deliver safe water to their neighbors.
Citizens of Loma Negra deliver safe water to their neighbors.

With God’s help, the citizens of Loma Negra delivered approximately 35,000 liters (9,250 gallons) of safe water to the nearby victims over four days. The Piura Oeste Rotary Club donated funds to cover the additional chlorine needed.

“This project shows the extent of the Safe Water Committee’s love and generosity to share what they could,” says Vicky Espinoza, another Water Mission Peru community development specialist. “I’m glad to see how Water Mission’s projects are building love in difficult situations and sympathy for people who are from other communities.”

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