El Niño pushes hard on the doors of hunger in Peru

Paula Bayarte

Piura (Peru), Sep 11 (EFE).- Marina serves five portions of lentils and rice in a tin bowl held by a Peruvian among the millions living in extreme poverty in a country where the El Niño phenomenon has accentuated shortages, especially in the north.

This meal, which will satiate a family of five, is possible thanks to the self-management of communities that view the coming global weather phenomenon with fear.

The neighbors are arriving to serve themselves lunch in one of the humble houses of Ampliación de Nuevo San Vicente, in the area of La Unión, in the northern department of Piura, where there is no water or electricity and the unpaved streets become rivers of mud that wash away with the rainfall.

“We are 30 mothers who collect our portion of five or seven, and we contribute one sol (0.26 dollars) to buy firewood and water since it is an element that is needed here; because we do not have that liquid, we have to buy it to prepare food. And the mothers already know what day it is their turn to prepare,” said Shirley Huertas, president of the communal pot Bendición de Dios, to EFE.

These community-organized meals, which became popular in Peru during the pandemic, have re-emerged in areas like this one in the north of the country, severely affected by the El Niño Costero rains in February, March, and April.

The heavy rains destroyed houses, affected livestock, and ruined crops, causing farmers to be out of work and increasing prices of essential goods such as lemons and onions.

This situation has led people like Karoline to rely on these community meals that the women of the settlement themselves take turns to prepare for the thirty or so families, among which there are elderly people, single mothers, and fathers who have no support or income.

“This is a relief. The money we save on this lunch can be spent on dinner,” said Karoline while waiting in line for rations for her family. Her husband is unemployed, and she is a housewife who takes care of her children, aged 9, 7, and 4, who run around.

Strengthening communities Huertas explains that since the communal pot began on June 16, they have prepared 130 rations daily thanks to monthly food shipments from the NGO Action Against Hunger.

Marina, for her part, says that she covers her cooking shifts and those of her sister-in-law because she works and does not have time to collaborate.

“Action Against Hunger is supporting the construction and generation of common cooking pots as a community tool not only in the face of the response we have experienced but also in preparation for the emergency that El Niño Global may generate,” mentioned the director of the NGO in Peru, America Arias.

She indicates that the latest predictions confirm that heavy rains will come along with El Niño Global at the end of the year.

“The community has to have the tools to face it because, during the rains, we know it is challenging to access this population.”

For this reason, in recent months, they have been promoting hygiene, safe food handling, and community organization to support each other and generate support networks.

In places like this settlement, where there are no property titles and the presence of authorities is conspicuous by its absence, the organization among neighbors is essential for them to move forward.

Concern about the global Niño “When we arrived in Piura, with the emergency of El Niño Costero and cyclone ‘Yaku,’ we found a fairly high number of children with chronic malnutrition and even cases of acute malnutrition, years ago that acute malnutrition was no longer in Peru and we have found it again,” Arias said with concern.

Since 2022, the NGO Action Against Hunger has warned of multiple crises with El Niño Costero. This is now going to worsen with El Niño Global, and there are still the consequences of the COVID pandemic and the rise in prices that the country has been experiencing for months.

According to the UN, there are 16.6 million people in Peru, more than half of the population, who do not have regular access to sufficient and nutritious food. Families like Karoline’s, still trying to make headway from the latest rains, look concerned about the sky, hoping their vulnerable situation does not worsen. EFE


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