Benjamin Laniado

CADENA assists thousands in Paraguay floodings.

From March 15 to May 11, Paraguay suffered from catastrophic floods. The rains, usually intense during this time of year, were brutal, with up to 400 mm of water pouring down in many towns. According to Engineer Miguel Kurita, of the Paraguay Department of National Emergencies, the last emergency of this scope happened in 2014: “at that time 45,000 families were affected, today there’s 65,000.”

Mud makes access to these communities harder.

Particularly hit was the Department of Ñeembucú, where downpours affected 22,000 families: “Many of the region’s inhabitants lost their crops” Luis Benítez, governor of the region, said, “it will take them at least six months to recover from this. These small farmers are in a critical situation because the fields were flooded.

Given this catastrophic situation, on May 18 a group of rescue workers, psychologists, doctors, volunteers from Mexico, Argentina and Chile arrived in Asunción, where they met with the First Lady, Silvana López Moreira, as well as the Secretariat of National Emergencies, and the Ministry of Health, to analyze the seriousness of the situation.

Children have been the most affected, especially those under 5, who are suffering from respiratory tract infections and diseases related to influenza, diarrhea,  dehydration, and cutaneous infections due to lack of hygiene. Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes (such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya) also abound.

Our volunteers in El Chaco, Paraguay.

After the meeting, the team left for the region of El Chaco. “Access to the communities was very complex,” said Santiago Treviño, a Mexican doctor who participated as co-head of the mission, “the roads were blocked with 1.5-meter-deep mud, so low-income communities were not receiving any kind of help.”

The families of El Chaco received water filters with the capacity to generate 800 liters of drinking water per day and a 5-year-lifespan (when managed correctly). They also offered personal and collective psychological assistance to increase the population’s resiliency.

“It was a complicated mission, but the integrity of the team is what allowed us to cope with it,” said Treviño, who highlighted the importance of being there to give emotional help: “we are there to remind people that there is always someone who thinks about them, someone willing to lend a hand, and  repair the world. ”

A CADENA doctor giving consultation to a woman affected by the floods.

In total, the team gave medical and psychological counseling to 1500 people. They also installed 155 Sawyer water filters in 6 marginalized communities, which means that more than a thousand people will have clean water for the next 5 years. More than 450 solar lamps, each with a lifespan of 7 years, were also delivered to help people cope with the lack of electricity.

But we are not done. Paraguay is still suffering an overall lack of food security and access to hospitals, in addition to the indefinite suspension of school activities. Low-income communities have been particularly hit, they have no infrastructure to evacuate families and provide shelter for those in need.

A second mission is on the way.

About the Author
Benjamin is the Secretary-General of CADENA: a global Jewish humanitarian relief agency based in Mexico City. He's the winner of the 2020 "Changing the World" Award, awarded by President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin.
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