The Bolivian drought: bringing water aid to animals in need

Oct 4, 2010

This year, the Bolivian region of El Chaco has faced its driest summer in 20 years. The prolonged drought has caused a water shortage that is affecting poor people and animals throughout the region. Bringing aid to animals in the most affected parts of El Chaco, WSPA is funding an operation that will provide water to small livestock holders – who rely on the animals for income – twice a day, for two months. An estimated total of 9,000 animals will benefit from this help.

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“It's been more than three months of suffering the effects of the drought now and we’ve already lost more than 15 cattle,” said one Bolivian farmer. “This help arrived just in time – without this aid, all of the animals would have died.”

Since November 2009, Bolivia has experienced a significant decrease in the rainfall, which has affected all nine provinces in the country. At the end of June, the national government declared the emergency situation for the region of El Chaco, a large mass of agriculture land (more than 621,300 square miles) located on the southern side of the country.

WSPA’s disaster management staff and the leader of the Colombian WSPA’s Veterinary Emergency Response Unit (VERU) travelled to Bolivia to conduct an assessment and evaluate the animal welfare need in the zone. At the time, the water supply provided by the local government was not even able to provide water to the 19,000 families affected by the drought, meaning that the animals – 12,000 cattle in particular – were in dire need of water.

As part of the WSPA-funded operation, which began last month, three 15,000-liter water trucks will bring water to the cattle every day. Some other animals, such as horses, dogs, pigs and goats, will benefit from the water supply as well. This is a temporary solution, until the Bolivian government is able to start drilling more wells throughout the region, or to buy suitable tanks to store water for the people and animals.

“This is a tough time for animals in Bolivian’ El Chaco region; it’s so sad to see that animals dying and it’s even harder to know that the level of precipitation is going to continue to be low,” said Luis Carlos Sarmiento, WSPA’s Regional Director for South America.

“We definitely need to be there, however we are not going to just respond to the emergency this time – we are also going to get involved in efforts with the local authorities to prevent this level of animal suffering in the future. The local people know the drought season is likely to extend, so they need to make improvements and be prepared to care for the welfare of their animals – not only for the animals themselves, but also to protect people’s income and future.”

Learn more about WSPA's work with animals in disasters on our blog >>

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