One emergency after another in Colombia


December 9, 2010

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In November, the Mayor's Office of Barranquilla requested Mercy Corps' support with a humanitarian response to the neighborhood of El Bosque that was affected by a landslide that brought down more than 300 households. We were quick to respond, leveraging funds from our Portland Headquarters and matching those funds with the Mayor's Office.

With US$60,000 we did miracles. A team was formed with a field coordinator, two social workers and two community leaders. A community-lead diagnostic provided essential information to respond to the urgent needs of those affected.

The team created an emergency plan that integrated the distribution of emergency kits, along with a psychosocial program for children and women head-of-households, and a community mobilization effort that strengthened local leaders in their interaction with authorities on the topic of relocation from high-risk areas. This one-month response had an emphasis on speed and cost-effectiveness, with amazing results.

The southern portion of the Department of the Atlantico (the area where Barranquilla is located) was flooded last Wednesday, December 8, from a recent bursting of levees due to this year's winter rains. This hasn't happened before, or at least not to this extent, with more than 46,000 people displaced from their homes.

Due to our quick and effective response in Barranquilla, the Governor's Office requested our support to respond to the humanitarian needs of those affected by this recent flooding. However, the level of damage by this most recent disaster surpasses the funds available from headquarters.

Our office in Colombia has submitted a request for funds from the European Commision, which we hope to match with a fundraising drive lead by the Seattle Sounders, a Seattle-based soccer team, whose lead striker is Freddy Montero. The Sounder's fundraising campaign is being led by Freddy, who was born and raised in Cruz del Campo, the municipality that has been most heavily affected by the breach in the levees and the subsequent floods.

The devastation surpasses the response capacity of the regional government. Due to our work in Barranquilla, our team is ready to go into the area and I'm arriving on-site on Monday to fully plan our response.

The winter rains are raging in Colombia, and the national emergency response has not met the urgent need of those affected. Mercy Corps is doing the most with the limited funds available raised by our strong team at headquarters. Thanks for the support and let's keep it coming!