A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam's team of humanitarian workers arrived in Santiago during the early hours of Tuesday morning spearheading the aid agency’s response to Saturday’s devastating earthquake.
The team of five – consisting of water engineers and logisticians – is heading across to Concepcion today (Tuesday) by road, anticipating the 300-mile journey could take up to 12 hours due to the poor condition of the road.
As well as sending a team to the disaster-hit area, the organization is also planning to send a stock of relief supplies from its storage warehouse in Bolivia to Chile.
Oxfam has a stock of basic emergency supplies, including blankets, water buckets and water filters in Bolivia. Oxfam is looking into how to send these supplies to Chile. On arrival they will be handed over to partner organizations for use where they are needed most.
Once the experienced team members arrive at the affected area, they will start assessing people’s access to clean, fresh drinking water and sanitation facilities.
They will also be looking to see whether there is a need for Oxfam to provide emergency shelter.
Charlie Rowley, who is heading up Oxfam’s assessment team in Chile, says: “We are Oxfam's eyes and ears on the ground.
“It is early days yet but we are here to see how we can make a real difference and do what we can to help the people whose lives have been turned upside down by this disaster. We are particularly concerned about people living in the more remote, rural areas as they are least likely to receive immediate assistance.”
Oxfam’s team in Latin America has been talking to Chilean organizations to get as full a picture as possible of the extent of the damage – particularly in the rural, hard-to-reach areas. Until the assessment is complete, the aid agency is unclear about what its precise role in the relief effort will be.
Notes to editors
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Saturday’s quake, registering 8.8, struck five regions in Chile – regions V to VIII, and the capital of Chile, Santiago. The greatest damage is believed to have occurred in the regions of Maule and Bio Bio, in the southern part of the country. In Maule alone, the death toll is believed to be more than 500; and this number is expected to increase due to the tsunami that hit the region minutes after the tremor. In the hours and days since the earthquake, thousands of families have taken to living in the hills in the seventh region.
More than 100 aftershocks have been registered since Saturday’s quake hit.