Peruvian Red Cross ships more than 50 tons of warm clothing and blankets to areas affected by extreme cold

As part of its “Together against the Cold” Campaign, the Peruvian Red Cross has shipped more than 50 tons of warm clothing, blankets and medicine to 11,290 families throughout Peru’s southern Altiplano, including Cuzco, Puno, Apurimac and Huancavelica.

The blankets and clothing were shipped by private companies, and with the financial and technical support of the German Red Cross and the International Red Cross, IRC.

Climate change continues to wreak havoc in Peru’s southern Altiplano, where the arrival of freezing temperatures since March — almost three months earlier than usual — has killed more than 278 children, more than recorded annually for the past four years.

In Peru’s southern highlands, poverty is widespread and there is a lack of doctors, health care facilities, medicine and, in some areas, basic utilities such as electricity. In this situation, children – often malnourished – are much more vulnerable to extreme cold temperatures and routinely die from exposure to cold weather during the winter months.

Peru’s Ombudswoman, Beatriz Merino, contrasted the Altiplano situation to Peru’s rapid response to the recent outbreak of swine flu, holding the lack of  prevention policies responsible for the children who die every year in Peru’s southern highlands.

“Government authorities deal with low temperatures as a risk or a possibility, and not as part of a sustained policy of the State to adopt permanent prevention throughout the year to avoid more deaths,” Susana Silva, Deputy Health Ombudswoman, said in an official statement.

UNICEF officials are also trying to correct the cold weather “emergency” misnomer. According to Andres Franco, UNICEF’s representative in Peru, the deadly cold snaps are predictable and the deaths preventable.

“Here we are – UNICEF – doing child survival right there; trying to make a contribution and to prevent it from happening. We even find ourselves trying not to call it an ‘emergency’ anymore, because how can it be an emergency when we know it happens every year?” said Franco.

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