Panama/Geneva, April 6 2017 – Conditions are ripe for an increase in dengue and other mosquito-borne and water-related diseases in areas worst affected by flooding in northern Peru, according to a Red Cross and Red Crescent initial assessment of health needs.
Record heavy rains have triggered landslides and widespread flooding, affecting more than one million of people and creating conditions that are perfect for the spread of the mosquito Aedes aegypti. This mosquito carries dengue which is endemic in the north of Peru, as well as Chikungunya and Zika.
The situation is expected to get steadily worse with meteorological agencies predicting continued heavy rainfall over the coming weeks. This will make it difficult to clear mud and stagnant water, will impede efforts to repair damaged water and sewage networks, and will further complicate access to the affected areas which is already hampered by damaged road infrastructure.
“The situation is really worrying. We expect that the number of cases of dengue, chikungunya and Zika will increase over the next few days, complicating the response and recovery efforts in affected communities,” said María Tallarico, Regional Health Coordinator for the Americas, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Water deposits and the general unsanitary conditions create perfect conditions for the spread of these illnesses, along with other diseases such as leptospirosis.”
The Piura Regional Directorate of Health has already reported 31 cases of leptospirosis in flood affected areas, and the Ministry of Health has warned of a potential outbreak. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread by rats that can, in severe cases, cause liver damage, kidney failure, bleeding and even death.
The Ministry of Health has started an aerial-spraying campaign to prevent the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
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However, complementary efforts to counter these health threats have been undermined by a slow donor response, says Walter Cotte, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas.
“We are really alarmed by the little international attention this emergency has received. We are concerned that, due to the lack of resources to act immediately, the proliferation of diseases in the affected areas will become an additional emergency to the one already created by the floods,” said Mr Cotte.
“When we talk about diarrheal diseases or others like dengue, Zika or chikungunya, we are talking about diseases that have a high impact on people’s lives and the economies of the countries. We require resources that allow us to comprehensively address this emergency and allow communities to recover and rebuild.”
IFRC and Peruvian Red Cross have appealed for 4.7 million Swiss francs (about USD 4.7 million) to support 50 000 people in the worst affected departments of Piura, Tumbes, Lambayeque and La Libertad. So far, only about 260,000 – around 5 per cent of what is needed – has been received, preventing many critical interventions from starting.