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Staying Alive after Roaring Floods in Peru

June 15, 2017

Remnants of a home devastated by flooding lie abandoned in northern Peru.
Remnants of a home devastated by flooding lie abandoned in northern Peru.

After floods slammed a residential street in Peru last spring, the neighborhood looks like a refugee camp that got hit by a tornado.

On a section of wet earth and scrub brush that used to be a street, wooden boards and chunks of concrete that were once homes lie jumbled in a morass of mattresses and furniture. Inhabitants of the area east of Lima have strung up tarps between the remnant walls and trees as protection from the elements. Small tents occasionally appear ensconced in mud.

Residents no longer need to plop fallen ceiling beams across rivulets of water to cross from one patch of high ground to another, as they did last month after weeks of torrential rains sent floods splashing through parts of half the country – killing more than 100 people, ripping away roads and bridges and leaving nearly 100,000 people homeless. But inhabitants' problems are far from over.

The scene east of Lima played out in hundreds of areas throughout northern Peru, such as the village in Olmos District where a 93-year-old resident, Segundo, lost everything he had.

"Because of my age, I can't work," Segundo said. He told the ministry leader of an indigenous ministry, "If you had not come, I don't know what would have happened to me, because I do not have relatives to give me food, and my house has been flooded."

"The waters flooded our house, and our children suffer from the itching of mosquito bites," said a resident. "We have no food because, due to the flooding, there are no jobs."

Those who are able to work are not much better off. The flooding wiped out countless shops, businesses and farm fields in semitropical Lambayeque Region, where the indigenous ministry seeks assistance for ongoing needs of fresh drinking water, canned food, clothing and New Testaments.

"In the northern area of Peru where we live and serve, there is destruction of homes, deaths and scarcity of jobs for parents," said the ministry leader, Mario. "Schools were destroyed, and students were unable to attend classes. We are very grateful to our Almighty God who touches the hearts of donors of Christian Aid Mission to send support for our compatriots who are suffering due to heavy rains that were 10 times stronger than usual."

Serving people who otherwise feel abandoned, he and his coworkers have been able to counsel many traumatized people and share the salvation of Christ, he said. Another 93-year-old Olmos District resident, Ricardo, said rushing waters soaked some of his belongings and carried away others, leaving him, his 86-year-old wife and his only child, a 38-year-old daughter, with no way to survive.

"My wife has lived 25 years tied to this wheelchair, and my only daughter is deaf and mute," he said. "Thank you very much for helping us with food, mosquito nets and sharing the Word of God. May God bless you."

Old Peruvian man who survived flooding.
A 93-year-old survivor of the flooding depends on food from an indigenous ministry to survive.

Swollen rivers coursed toward Lima, racing over the surrounding arid desert and pounding the capital city's streets with muddy waves and debris. The $3.75 million needed for bridge and road repairs nationwide, part of a total $9 billion in recovery costs expected over the next five years, will translate into jobs for some but ongoing misery for most.

"The waters flooded our house, and our children suffer from the itching of mosquito bites," said another Olmos District resident. "We have no food because, due to the flooding, there are no jobs."

The hunger and despair of joblessness is compounded by inability to move from one place to another after landslides and the sheer force of rushing water destroyed travel routes.

Mario, the ministry leader, is especially concerned about children weakened by hunger, illness and stress. A scene in a district east of Lima was repeated countless times across the affected areas of Peru: Their wood-paneled home in a shambles behind them, a mother sits on a mattress perched in mud with her two children, sheltered only by a sheet of aluminum siding atop two columns of rusted metal drums.

One of the children appears to sleep from exhaustion. It is hard to imagine where they will find food or how they will get through the night.

"The hunger of hundreds of children is alarming, and this is joined by epidemics due to mosquito bites and dust clouds mostly affecting children and the elderly," Mario said. "We are preparing food for 200 children every day as long as the resources last."

With support from Christian Aid Mission donors, the ministry has been able to care for those who are suffering by providing canned food, mosquito nets and New Testaments to people such as 66-year-old Juana. Her house was flooded a little over a mile from the town of Olmos.

"No one remembers us, not even our local government," she said. "Thank you very much for bringing me food supplies and mosquito nets."

Another resident was equally grateful.

"Thank you so much for thinking about us and bringing my family food and mosquito nets so we can sleep in peace," he said. "God bless you!"

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 245HLP. Thank you!

Help victims of disaster in Peru
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