El Niño had a strong impact on Peru but the country was well-prepared. (Photo: El Comercio)
PANAMA CITY, 12 October 2016 - The El Niño weather phenomenon was first named by fishermen in Peru where records going back 500 years have detailed its destructive impact especially along the northern coast where it often hits hardest.
When the most recent El Niño was first forecast it stirred fearful memories of the 9,300 people who lost their lives in the so-called Meganiños of 1982-83 and 1997-98 along with GDP losses of 11.6% and 6.2% respectively.
Based on past experience, the Government was determined on this occasion to reduce disaster mortality significantly in line with the first target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
This increased level of preparedness combined with the less intense impact of El Niño on Peru by comparison with Africa, Haiti and parts of Central America, saw the numbers of reported deaths at twenty with 13,000 people left homeless and 130,000 severely affected between the onset of El Niño in February 2015 and its disappearance in May 2016.
Mr. Ricardo Mena, head of the UNISDR Regional Office for the Americas, said: “Preparedness has never been so high for El Niño in several Andean countries but Peru put in place a detailed well-resourced comprehensive contingency plan which helped to reduce the risk of deaths and injuries from the extreme weather”.
Mr. Julio Pflucker Yépez, Secretary of the National Disaster Risk Management System of Peru said: “The Government coordinated with all relevant sectors to implement disaster risk reduction measures aimed at reducing people’s vulnerability and improving preparedness efforts with particular emphasis on previously identified critical areas.”
Mr. Mena added that “ The joint effort involving government agencies, the scientific community and civil society to promote understanding of risk and strengthen resilience in communities was one of the key ingredients to achieve successful results.”
The government encouraged preventative measures including household level tasks such as maintenance and cleaning of roofs, building retaining walls and identifying housing in poor conditions and at risk.
The education sector took delivery of 2,000 prefabricated classrooms in the regions where a state of emergency was declared during 2015 and 2016 to reduce disruption for schoolchildren in flood-affected areas.
"Regarding the specific effects of El Niño, roughly a little over 1,000 million soles (US$250 million) have been given as an immediate response to these events, additional resources of 3,000 million soles (US$750 million) are also available in the reserve contingency, as a second line of defense if required”, said Mr. Alonso Segura, Minister of Economy and Finance (MEF).
Peru is one of the 20 most vulnerable countries to climate change due to its location in a zone of tropical mountains and great ecosystem diversity. High temperatures, drought, frost and abundant rainfall have affected the country's economy and led to serious human and material losses, as well as the displacement of communities. Given these complications, the Peruvian State has developed a series of national policies and plans that include an environmental and climate perspective.
In recent years, the Peruvian government has been responsible for designing and implementing new governance measures that integrate climate and environmental prevention in development policies. Of particular importance are the Contingency Plan and the National Disaster Risk Management Plan PLANAGERD 2014-2021; which establishes lines of action against possible climate threats and sets general guidelines for disaster risk management.
A spokesperson for the National Meteorology and Hydrology Service of Peru, SENHAMI, said that in order to take advantage of the positive aspects of El Niño and to mitigate the impact of possible disasters, it is necessary to understand, anticipate and adapt to climate variability.
SENHAMI is leading a strategy to generate and manage knowledge about the phenomenon that allows inclusion of weather conditions as study variables in decision-making in social, political and economic areas.