It is dawn in Peru, but Andres Medina has been awake for hours. He and his fellow Red Cross volunteers are gearing up for a busy day of delivering aid to people impacted by heavy floods. They know what’s needed, and where they’re going. They don’t know when they’ll sleep next; but sleep—they figure—can wait.
“That’s the way it is, the emergency does not follow working hours,” says Andres.
People—mainly mothers—start to arrive at the distribution point by 7:00 am. By 8:00, things are already in full swing: volunteers hand out hygiene kits, cooking supplies, water, chlorine tablets and other aid to help people survive the coming days and weeks.
As the morning wears on, the temperature rises. One of the volunteers dealing with breakfast for staff goes to Andres and pulls him by the arm so he can take a moment. “If you do not remember, you can spend all day without eating,” she told him. Andres walks quickly to the breakfast place, serves himself hot oatmeal with cookies, and is quickly back to work.
“The people are tense,” he said. “If something does not go well, it can be difficult,” sys Andres. But things go smoothly and families walk away with more hope than they came here with.
“I’m excited, it’s this kind of feeling that caught me when I first joined the Red Cross,” Andres said.
Andres is one of 2,000+ Red Cross volunteers who jumped at the chance to help people affected by the worst flooding to hit Peru in decades. The flooding led to mudslides and power-outages around the country and caused severe damage to infrastructure. More than 700 miles of road were destroyed, approximately 280,000 acres of farmland damaged, 200+ bridges collapsed, and more than 250 schools destroyed.
As with many large international disasters, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from around the world stand at the ready when the local society—in this case, the Peru Red Cross—requests help.
When asked, American Red Cross jumped into action—deploying two disaster specialists and contributing $200,000 to help people in Peru at their time of greatest need. The emergency responders and funding helped the Peru Red Cross carry out its essential work like performing first aid, search and rescue, psychosocial support, and distributing food and relief supplies.
In addition to disaster relief, the American Red Cross is also helping to map communities in Peru to increase the chances that families get the aid they need when future disasters occur. Just this week, a Red Cross team will be helping to trace satellite imagery from Iquitos—a rural area in Peru prone to flooding. Through its Missing Maps program, the information teams input into an open-sourced map can help disaster responders understand where aid is needed and expedite the arrival of relief supplies.