5 May 2022 - Peru

Climate change sparks displacement in Peru’s Amazonas, as families could be made homeless three times in six months


Families in Peru’s Amazonas region are at risk of being displaced for a third time in six months as climate change intensifies the impact of disasters, leaving children without quality education or security about their future, Save the Children said.

Since November 2021, parts of the Amazonas region have faced two devastating earthquakes and extreme rainfall, which triggered a series of landslides and severe flooding, affecting more than 10,000 people.

Families initially displaced by a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake on 28 November, were made homeless for a second time when their temporary shelters were destroyed or washed away by floods and torrential rainfall earlier this year.

Heavy rains in the region will continue throughout May, putting families at risk of displacement yet again.

"I’ve noticed the climate changing over the years,” said Christina*, 26, who was displaced by the multiple disasters in the region, and is now acting as a protection agent with Save the Children to ensure children’s rights are upheld in her community. “Before, the rain wasn’t that hard but now it is intense and the winds are strong, and it is even hotter here than before." 

Rainfall is common in this mountainous region; however, changing weather patterns have increased the severity of extreme weather events, such as strong winds and torrential downpours, fuelling greater disasters. 

Gabriela*, 30, lives with her husband and two young children, aged two and nine months, in a small village that was destroyed late last year. She explained that the initial earthquake hit the region at night.

“Many people were coming out of their homes asking for help and crying, begging. It was very difficult because it was so dark, and I had two babies. I was about 200 metres from where my dad lived and he is an elder, so I had to make sure he was okay,” Gabriela said.

“I had to carry one of my children on my back and the other in my arms. I was crying and praying. I was desperate. Then I realized that I had to remain quiet and calm because my daughters were crying with me. We never imagined this situation would happen.”

Gabriela and her family now call a temporary tent home, like 428 other families in the region. Their plastic shelter gets extremely hot during the day, making it unbearable to stay inside because of the heat. It also leaks whenever it rains.

“It is a small place. We have our beds and our stuff, so there is no place for the children to play. The only thing we can do there is sleep,” saidGabriela.

She explained that the hardest part of her experience was telling her two-year-old daughter about what happened to their home.

 “She said to me: ‘mom why don’t we go home?’ and she cried because we were in the middle of nowhere. She then asked to go to the park, but I couldn’t take her there because I did not want her to see the destruction and be impacted by seeing what had happened. Because if I suffered, I was afraid she might be scared too,” said Gabriela.

After about a week, Gabriela showed her daughter some photos and explained that an earthquake and landslide destroyed their home, their community, and their crops. “She understood and didn’t ask to go back home after that,” Gabriela said.

Families like Gabriela’s are now struggling to rebuild their lives in an area that is deemed high-risk for another disaster. They are patiently waiting for the government to rebuild their homes in a safer location that is not too far from where they used to live, and where they have access to clean water, education and a source of income.

“We want our houses to be installed but with all the necessary utilities, such as water, electricity and drainage,” said Gabriela. “The people who live in the countryside, the farmers, we have a right to those basic services. We need water and drainage. We need quality education. We need technology for schools, not only for this place but also for all the towns in the rural areas around here”.

Carlos* is a teacher in the same community where Gabriela and her family live. Unfortunately, the school at which Carlos worked – the only one in the community – suffered extensive damage when the November earthquake caused surface ruptures, pushing the ground apart and upward.

There were some parents who fainted, mothers. Can you imagine how the children felt? People were fainting and houses were going down, and the children were in shock,” said Carlos.

He now works at a temporary learning space supported by Save the Children, where he is teaching children about disasters, specially what happened in their community, and the benefits and consequences of rain. 

In February, the region faced yet another earthquake, this time with a magnitude of 6.5. The combination of the two earthquakes, plus agricultural deforestation and a changing climate, have made the land extremely vulnerable to landslides and flooding, increasing children’s risk of displacement.

The number of children driven from their homes because of climate change is increasing globally. According to a report released by Save the Children last year, children around the world said the climate crisis was already having devastating impacts on their lives, with some having to move as a result, increasingly from rural to urban areas.

Veronica Valdivieso, Save the Children’s Country Director for Peru, said:  

“Climate change is making disasters more dangerous in Peru’s Amazonas regions, with far-reaching impacts for children. This region is extremely vulnerable to another earthquake, landslide or flood. Families are essentially living in a danger zone. We’ve already seen their lives uprooted twice, and now they are at risk of being displaced for the third time.

“Many of these families do not want to leave their communities. They’re connected to the land and have been there for generations. The government must come up with a mutual agreement with these communities to ensure children are safe.

“Displacement will only become more common in this region as climate change continues to affect weather patterns and exacerbate humanitarian needs. If we do not address the urgent climate crisis, children’s rights will continue to be threatened, and some families will have no choice but to move, as their lands will become uninhabitable.” 

Save the Children is the only international humanitarian organisation responding to the devastation caused by the earthquakes, landslides and flooding in Peru’s Amazonas region. The aid agency is providing clean water, education, cash assistance, psychosocial support, and ensuring children are protected in the region.

Save the Children has worked in Peru since 1980, reaching more than 129,800 people in 2021, including 37,678 children. 

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