Peru: Months after massive earthquake, survivors feel abandoned

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In this isolated jungle region about 1,200 km north of the capital, hundreds of people are still homeless after a massive earthquake last November triggered landslides and flooding. Communities along the turbulent Utcubamba and Maranon rivers lost everything: their homes, livelihoods, schools and health centers.

In elections a year ago, this area was part of the rural political heartland of Pedro Castillo, the leftist politician who assumed the presidency last July. But today, many are blaming Castillo’s government for their ongoing predicament.

Soon after the earthquake, Castillo and an array of ministers landed by helicopter in the rural community of Santa Rosa about 120 km west of Bagua, and promised displaced residents that they would be airlifted to a safe, temporary shelter. But when community members were dropped by helicopter next to a football stadium outside Bagua, nothing had been set up; it was not until a day later that a few tents and some water were delivered.

Beyond the tents, all other supplies for displaced residents such as toilets, showers, water tanks and cash transfers for essential goods have been provided by international NGOs, such as Save the Children. Those affected by the earthquake say they are frustrated by the lack of government aid.

Felipe Perez, regional director for the National Institute of Civil Defense, the state body in charge of disaster management, said that the government’s response was “immediate and opportune”. He said, “The assistance is permanent … There’s a process of emergency response, a process of rehabilitation, and there was a lot of delay during the identification of land where temporary shelter could be set up”.

A single mother of two said, “The president said we would be here for a maximum of two months,“We trusted him, which is why we are here”. She also said that as a former rural schoolteacher Castillo, “should be better prepared to govern and to deal with such situations”, “but this is where the country is now”, “Just see what has happened.”



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