There has been unprecedented destruction and tragedy in the mountainous areas of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The six most affected towns of Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis, Petropolis, Sao Jose do Vale do Rio Preto, Sumidouro and Bom Jardin have reported more than 800 casualties with many more missing and several thousand people homeless, including many children.
We have begun an emergency relief programme to help some of the thousands of homeless families who have been forced to live in temporary shelters. Our emergency programme is focused on the towns of Nova Friburgo and Teresópolis and is scheduled to run until July. In Teresópolis alone, SOS staff are helping some 800 families and 1,800 children who are living in temporary shelters in the district of Albuquerque.
The SOS relief team have contacted and established partnerships with local government authorities, army representatives and local NGOs, and their main priorities are as follows:
- Children who have lost their families in the ongoing disaster or who have been separated from their families with no knowledge of their whereabouts must be identified and registered as soon as possible in cooperation with local authorities;
- Children who have nobody to take care of them, even if only temporarily, must be provided with basic necessities, such as food, medical and psychological support, and a safe place to stay.
Government authorities have declared SOS Children the designated temporary caretakers of children without parental care, and members of the SOS emergency team are currently searching for unaccompanied children in more than two dozen camps that shelter displaced persons.
In the meantime, the Brazilian Government have announced a long-term reconstruction programme, pledging to build 8,000 houses for families who have been made homeless by the floods. President Dilma Rousseff also promised significant investment in flood prevention measures, particularly in areas identified most at risk from future incidents. While the disaster is already being called one of the worst in Brazilian history, weather forecasts predict more rain yet to come over the next few weeks.