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Peru: Cold Temperatures Continue in Puno

The dire situation in Southern Peru continues due to the extreme temperatures in the region of Puno. Isabel Guerra writes in Living in Peru, the most vulnerable victims are children, who are dying from pneumonia and respiratory illnesses. To date, there have been 433 registered deaths due to the cold [es]. This is in comparison to the 480 deaths across Latin America due to the AH1N1 virus, which has received much more media and governmental attention.

Photo by Barbara Drake and used with permission. http://americaninlima.com/2009/07/18/andean-children-cold

Photo by Barbara Drake and used with permission. http://americaninlima.com/2009/07/18/andean-children-cold

However, there have been some strong and powerful images emerging from the region, including this video, that show the victims of this cold wave, which has caused quite a reaction from some Peruvians.

The harshness of the video impacted those that saw the video, which is shown in the comments section by those who criticize the journalists who made the video. For example, the YouTube user named beto1726 writes:

…cuanto morbo d stos periodistas el de ver y no aser ni mi***a si sabian q iban a encontrar a ninos sufriendo por q no llevaron ayuda de medicamentos desde lima asiendo en su canal una colecta entre tanto gerente q tienen…

How morbid can these journalists be, when they see (the situation) and not do sh** if they knew that they would find children suffering, why did they not take medicine from Lima, taking up a collection from all of the employees at their station

The user Piacostar responds on behalf of the journalists:

No justifico … pero en honor a la verdad, los periodistas no somos médicos, ni abogados… solo informamos… es lo único que podemos hacer… e indignarnos como el resto del mundo… nuestro poder no va más allá que el de mostrar una realidad… cruda, es verdad, esperando que con eso se revele lo que sucede y quienes sí pueden y DEBEN hacer algo al respecto, LO HAGAN!

I don't justify it… but in honor of the truth, journalists are not doctors, or lawyers… we just report… it is the only thing that we can do… and be outraged like the rest of the world… our power does not go beyond showing the crude reality, it is true, waiting for what is revealed and so those that can and SHOULD do something about it, SHOULD DO SO!

It is not only the cold and the governmental improvisation that is affecting the low-income rural population in Puno, but also the poor management of donations received from those with good intentions. Bobsparz from the blog Caviar de Cianuro [es] , writes about one example of donations not arriving to their intended destination:

hace días la SUNAT incautó 32 toneladas de arroz (en 630 sacos) de un donativo alimentario del PMA para la gente de Puno. Resulta que el organismo internacional contrató los transportes de la empresa Industria Arrocera de América (Induamérica) quienes a la vez contrataron a la transportista Flores Casas debido que excedía su capacidad logística para poder transportar los donativos hacia Puno. Las donaciones fueron de Lambayeque hacia Lima para luego enrumbar a Puno en 8 camiones de Induamérica y en 3 de Flores Casas. Los donativos llevados en la última empresa transportista nunca llegaron y parte de las donaciones se hallaron en un mercado de Ica.

Por el robo cometido 20 mil familias de la sierra sur que soportan el frío no podrán recibir su alimento correspondiente. En total no fueron 32 toneladas sino 100 las que se perdieron en el camino de Lima a Puno. Realmente vergonzoso.

A few days ago, SUNAT (Tax Revenue Superintendency) impounded 32 tons of rice (in 630 sacks) from a World Food Programme donation for the people of Puno. It turns out that the international organization hired the transporters from the company Rice-Growers Industry of America (Induamérica) who then hired the transport company Flores Casas because they did not have the logistical capacity to be able to transport the donations to Puno. The donations went from Lambayeque to Lima, and then headed to Puno in 8 trucks from Induamérica and 3 from Flores Casas. The donations tranported from Flores Casas never arrived and part of the donation was found being sold in a market in the city of Ica.

Because of the theft, 20,000 families in the south who have had to withstand the cold will not be able to receive their corresponding alimentation. In total, in reality it was not 32 tons, but rather 100 tons that were lost along the way from Lima to Puno. Truly shameful.

Corruption is not the only problem that is presented to those who want to help the people of Puno. Barbara Drake, an ex-pat from the United States, writes in her blog An American in Lima:

In any other country, the Red Cross would be on the scene tending to victims and providing emergency services, but guess what? Peru’s Red Cross is a private, family-owned business that operates according to its own idiosyncratic methods, not those of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Society. The Peru Red Cross does virtually nothing during disasters and even less to prevent them.

Why can’t the International Red Cross intervene and help establish a true Red Cross in Peru? Because the family that “owns” the Red Cross in Peru has registered the name with SUNAT and technically “owns” the Red Cross brand in the country. If you think this is an outrage, join the club. The Peruvian government should intervene, rescind the name from private ownership and help get a real Red Cross established in Peru ASAP.

This situation is complex, and other structural problems are demonstrated during this crisis. Francisco Canaza of Apuntes Peruanos [es] has the opinion that the government's actions in this situation leave a lot to be desired. However, this is nothing new and he writes about some of the deep-seated issues (bold type is the blogger's emphasis):

La donación es un parche. El problema real es la desatención del Estado a aquellas zonas alejadas. La real obligación del Estado es proveer servicios médicos suficientes a todos los ciudadanos. Sin embargo, enfermedades simples degeneran en muerte en las comunidades de la sierra, por la ausencia de servicios de salud que puedan prestar atención oportuna. … (pero) La mortalidad se genera por el bajo nivel de defensas que los pobladores tienen por la limitada dieta.

Otro punto: Una simple caminata por zonas altas consume miles de calorías en poco tiempo. Los ciudadanos de , , zonas de , Ayacucho y Apurimac se enfrentan a caminatas extensas y su dieta no está adecuada para compensar el extremo requerimiento alimenticio. La ingesta de proteínas y calorías es bajísima en la sierra. La ingesta de carne, por ejemplo, es limitadísima. Sin embargo se promueve mil veces el reparto de leche como un gran logro. Peor aún, se insiste en modelos como el “papapán” que terminan por ser ridículos en su aporte dietético.

The donation is only a patch. The real problem is the inattention from the State towards to those faraway areas. The real obligation of the State is to provide sufficient medical services to all citizens. However, simple illnesses lead to death in the mountainous communities because of the absence of timely health services… (but) the mortality is generated because of the low levels of immune defenses in the people because of their limited diets.

Another point: A simple walk through the high-altitude areas burns thousands of calories in a short time. The citizens of the areas of Puno, Cusco, Arequipa, Ayacucho, and Apurimac face extensive walks and their diets are not enough to compensate for the extreme alimentary requirements. The consumption of proteins and calories is low in the mountainous region. The consumption of meat, for example, is also very limited. However, the distribution of milk is often promoted as a grand achievement. Worse yet, they continue to insist in models like “potato bread” which end up being ridiculed for its dietary contribution.

Finally, Rafo León writes in his column for the magazine Somos of the newspaper El Comercio about some interesting aspects of globalization and its harmful effects in the Peruvian altiplano. For example, many people use synthetic clothing instead of wool that is much warmer. Instead of constructing houses of adobe, which is generally the traditional housing material that best maintains warmth, they now are using brick and aluminum. The tarwi and quinua are foods that being used less and less in the children's diet and malnutrition increases.

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