Paraguay: National Emergency Secretariat marks 100 days of critical achievements

November 28, 2023

Addressing drought in the Western Region

Since August 15th, the National Emergency Secretariat (SEN) under Colonel DEM (R) Arsenio Zárate’s leadership has been tirelessly working to enhance disaster risk management and reduction in Paraguay.

One of their significant achievements includes responding to the drought in the Western Region, comprising the departments of Presidente Hayes, Boquerón, and Alto Paraguay.

This region faces recurring drought periods where water access generally relies on collection and storage. The prolonged current drought has increased water demand due to inadequate rainfall, which has led to a decrease in water reserves.

Under the new SEN administration, over 17,000 families, including Paraguayan and indigenous communities across the three departments, have benefited from the distribution of approximately 26 million liters of water.

This aid has been delivered to community cisterns, health centers, schools, and other institutions.

Additionally, the SEN has provided food kits to support food security among the most vulnerable sectors whose livelihoods were affected by the drought.

This effort involved coordination with various governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the Secretariat-General and Civil Cabinet of the Presidency, Ministries of National Defense and Social Development, National Secretariat of Culture, Itaipu Binacional, and others.

Assistance for families affected by tornadoes, hailstorms, severe storms, and floods

The current presence of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENOS) phenomenon, particularly from September to December, poses a high probability of persisting into early 2024. In Paraguay, El Niño is typically associated with wetter years, especially during strong events.

The SEN’s response to the tornado in the San Pedro department, particularly in the municipality of San Estanislao and Guaicá company, involved aiding 78 families, constructing 15 temporary homes, and reconstructing 17 permanent homes.

In the Itapuá department, specifically in the municipality of San Cosme and Damián, the SEN built 15 temporary homes for families affected by the Paraná River overflow.

In the Misiones department’s Ayolas municipality, the SEN installed six large tents to shelter families impacted by the river’s overflow.

Inter-institutional coordination for these responses included collaborations with local governments, National Police, Ministry of Defense, Itaipu Binacional, Entidad Binacional Yacyretá, Ministry of Public Health, and Ministry of Social Development.

Response to fire incidents

Extended periods of drought, along with practices such as burning pasture fields and uncontrolled campfires or discarded cigarettes in dry fields and urban trash burning, have led to numerous fire outbreaks with rapid spread potential.

To mitigate and prevent these fires, the SEN undertook several initiatives.

These included the cleaning of Arroyo Mboroti following heavy rains in mid-September, which caused the overflow and flooding of numerous homes in the Santa Ana neighborhood.

The SEN worked alongside the Engineering Command of the Armed Forces and the Municipality of Asunción to desilt the arroyo, an action that also serves as a preventive measure against future overflows.

Another significant effort was the Environmental Cleanup in response to the impending dengue epidemic in Paraguay, as evidenced by the Ministry of Health’s epidemiological surveillance.

The SEN, in coordination with SENEPA of the MSPBS and municipalities, conducted house checks and provided recommendations for mosquito breeding site elimination, ultimately covering several neighborhoods in the capital and the Presidente Hayes department.

Institutional strengthening

The SEN’s commitment to improving its services with transparency and expertise has led to the development of the Strategic Institutional Plan 2024-2028, an update of its organizational structure, roles, and functions, and the updating of its Response Plans for frequent events causing damage and loss, such as floods, severe storms, droughts, fires, and low temperatures.

Additionally, the SEN is implementing a digital tool for data processing and analysis for Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis.

In these 100 days, the SEN’s humanitarian aid has significantly impacted the population affected by drought, fires, storms, hail, and floods.

The institution has assisted 58,298 families, totaling 227,362 individuals (considering an average of 3.9 persons per family), covering immediate needs arising from these situations to protect life, property, and ensure shelter and security.

FSJA Comment

The National Emergency Secretariat’s achievements over the past 100 days highlight a critical aspect of disaster management and response: the multifaceted approach.

The Secretariat’s efforts in managing drought effects, responding to natural disasters like tornadoes and floods, addressing fire incidents, and institutional strengthening showcase a comprehensive and proactive approach to disaster risk reduction and management.

Their ability to coordinate with various governmental and non-governmental entities reflects the importance of collaboration in disaster response.

These efforts provide immediate relief and contribute to long-term resilience and preparedness, essential in a world where climate change increasingly impacts weather patterns and disaster frequency.

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