FAO rushes emergency aid to Peru as cold spell threatens livestock

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, has made an emergency shipment of 36,800 doses of antiparasitic medicines and antibiotics to save 18,000 alpacas in the district of Pilpichaca in the highland department of Huancavelica, one of Peru’s poorest regions.

“Pastures have been covered in snow which has frozen over, making grazing impossible,” Marc Vandersmissen, FAO’s Emergency Coordinator in Peru, said Thursday. “Unable to find adequate food, the alpacas have become weak and susceptible to disease.”

And because farm animals are sick and are dying – farmers in the region do not have sufficient forage stored and mainly rely on natural grazing – local farmers are being deprived of an important source of income and nutrition.

This year, the cold arrived early in Peru’s highlands –in April instead of June– and more than 92,000 hectares of land have been affected by frost, crops have failed, livestock perished, and thousands of people are suffering from respiratory diseases.

On June 19, President Alan Garcia enacted a legislative decree to declare a 60-day state of emergency in 11 of Peru’s 24 departments as temperatures in the Andean highlands continued to drop dramatically.

According to Vandersmissen, the cold spell phenomenon, known locally as a ‘friaje’, “involves a combination of unseasonable low temperatures, frosts, snow and hail that damages crops and the high-altitude pastures on which alpacas graze.”

The FAO’s 36,800 doses of antibiotics and antiparasitic medicines will be used to treat the Andean alpaca that have fallen ill and have been weakened by the cold. The FAO estimates that 50 percent of the 35.000 livestock in the area, including alpacas, llamas and sheep, should be treated and that 200 of the most vulnerable families will benefit from the intervention.

A first intervention took place July 14-19 in various other campesino villages including Llillinta, Antacancha, Cacuya, Pichcahuasi, Pueblo Nuevo, Ingahuasi and Pelapata.

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