MEXICO: EARTHQUAKES AND HURRICANES, SEPT.-OCT appeal no. 16/95 situation report no. 2 (FINAL) period covered: 1 February to 4 May 1996

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1 MEXICO: EARTHQUAKES AND HURRICANES, SEPT.-OCT appeal no. 16/95 situation report no. 2 (FINAL) period covered: 1 February to 4 May July 1996 The disaster Mexico, situated in the south of North America, is where cold winds from the north run into hurricane winds from the south. This phenomenon occurs throughout the year and normally reaches a peak in October. The Gulf of Mexico is the centre of major depressions that favour the movement of these air masses. In addition, the continental platform is situated on active, moving tectonic plates and volcanic magma, forming the Pacific Coast seismic belt. In September and October 1995, Mexico was affected by disasters linked to both these natural phenomena: FOUR EARTHQUAKES on 14 September, and 10, 12 and 20 October, reaching a maximum of 7.6 on the Richter scale; and FOUR HURRICANES on 15 and 20 September, and 9 and 14 October, with winds up to 200 kms per hour, each lasting between 2 and 5 days. These eight disasters affected some 180,000 persons in one way or another. They caused major damage to communications and service infrastructure and to the farming infrastructure (loss of soil, crops and farm animals). Housing and household goods were lost and, where the phenomena were the most violent, there was a temporary psycho-social effect on inhabitants.. The appeal The IFRC sent a relief delegate and launched an international appeal on 2 November 1995, seeking CHF 4,023,000 to assist 19,265 families in rural and partly urban areas. The amount received was CHF 1,318,900 (USD (including the German Red Cross/ECHO contract - see below). Through a contract (ECHO/ME/87-210/95/0310) with the German RC, ECHO (the European Community Humanitarian Office) contributed CHF 594,000 to the appeal for a "Food for Work" programme, under which beneficiaries would receive food and water tanks, in return for organising the repair and protection of their surroundings. Activities envisaged included reconstruction, cleaning up water sources, building latrines, improving schools, repairing roofs, rebuilding housing, repairing accesses, building lodging and manufacture of adobe bricks.

2 Operational objectives The operation had three initial objectives: To help the affected population via a "Food for Community Work" programme, starting on 12 December 1995 for a period of three months, to end not later than 30 March To provide overall medical assistance through a primary health care programme. To reduce future vulnerability by giving training in accident prevention and health education as well as in how to prepare family and community disaster prevention plans. The following results were achieved. A total of 22,111 families (136,393 persons) in 340 communities were provided food and water tanks (containers). To provide primary health care, 24 Global Care Centres were set up where 25,729 medical consultations were given. To reduce vulnerability in the communities, training was introduced for 36,537 persons in 317 communities, covering: accident prevention; coughs and colds; hygiene; scorpion bites, diarrhoea. Instruction was also given in drawing up a Family Emergency Plan and a Community Emergency Plan. Operational constraints The principal problems encountered were of two kinds: Supplier-related shortcomings Failure to deliver maize flour Sale of water tanks (containers) made of poor-quality plastic or of poor construction which during transport and use crack or break. A large number of tins of sardines had passed the expire date and had to be returned to the supplier. In the three instances, the National Society sent a complaint to the suppliers concerned. Logistics problems Purchase of supplies began around Christmas time when some suppliers were on holiday or had closed for the end of the year. Prices sharply increased at the beginning of the year owing to the instability of the national currency. Maize flour had been heavily subsidised by the government. At the time relief supplies had to be purchased the price was on the verge of being freed. Hoarding was therefore quite widespread, making it difficult to procure supplies. The second distribution had to be cancelled at the last minute. 2

3 Sugar could be purchased only in bulk, not in 1-kg bags. It was therefore decided to suspend distribution and to distribute more beans and rice. Many hauliers were not willing to drive on roads so remote and in such poor state of repair. The Red Cross therefore had to use its own vehicles (ambulances, pick-ups and lorries) to distribute the supplies to the chosen communities. In the end, the operation was completed as planned, despite these setbacks. Evaluation of needs Following the disasters, the IFRC sent a delegate who joined the damage evaluation team. The appeal was drawn up with his advice. The plan of action was worked out and sent jointly with the appeal to the IFRC in October This document was used as a working guide in the field and was changed and adapted to the new needs noted during a second evaluation. Some of the changes concerned the beneficiary communities. Some of the ones initially suggested had already received aid from the government or other NGOs and other new communities were identified which had been cut off during the first evaluation or could not be reached due to the state of the roads. Selection of Beneficiaries Beneficiaries were checked directly in house-to-house visits by Red Cross volunteers. A registration card was made out for each family containing the name of the head of family, the names of the family members, ages, sex, housing situation and health. Organisation of distributions Goods were distributed directly in each community by Red Cross members, in vehicles duly identified with the Red Cross emblem. Distribution points were generally schools, community buildings, in front of a health centre or a bypass on the community road. There were two distributions: when community work was completed at the end of January and at the end of February. Distributions to beneficiaries were made according to the following routine: - Reception in the field of goods sent from headquarters - Storage and recording (inventory) of the goods - Packaging of food in family packages - Transportation of food to distribution points - Distribution to beneficiaries. The beneficiaries undertook to do community work in return for the provisions. Progress on the community work was supervised in co-ordination with the community organisation. At the distribution, the names on the list were called and at the end the community delegate signed. In other cases, the beneficiaries signed against their name on the list. Tenders from food suppliers were sought through advertisements in the daily newspapers in the main state capitals. Comparative price charts were prepared to make the final 3

4 Personnel selection. The decision was officially announced and the suppliers were immediately contacted for the purchase of goods. The following organisation was set up to carry out the project: - a national co-ordination level, an operational co-ordination level and a field co-ordination level - at the local level, there was a logistics assistant, an operational assistant and a financial assistant. In all, 195 volunteers and 135 paid staff worked on the operation. Warehousing, communications and transport The provisions in the Series 3000 and the instructions in the Red Cross Handbook for Delegates were followed for storage. The local distributors of goods made deliveries to each of the Global Care Centres which were used as storage centres close to the beneficiary communities. The Red Cross already had a radio system. Radio communication equipment was purchased under the project for the delegations in Guerrero (3), Campeche (3), Yucatán (1), Veracruz (2) and Quintana Roo (1). However, owing to atmospheric interference with these radios, cellular telephones had to be rented. For reasons already explained, a total of 62 Mexican Red Cross vehicles were used for distributions and medical service. Accounting The Mexican Red Cross used the existing financial and administrative structure at its headquarters to record income and expenditure for the operation. In each delegation a financial assistant handled the local purchases and expenditure and provided central accounting with the corresponding vouchers. Evaluation On 1 to 3 May 1996, an evaluation meeting was held in Mexico. Attending were representatives from the Mexican Red Cross headquarters and representatives from each of the branches affected. Also present were Gustavo Ramírez, Head of the Regional Delegation in San José, Costa Rica, and Jan Schütt, representing the German Red Cross. All aspects of the operation were reviewed and the problems discussed. Due to the large region affected coordination needed to be improved and more information sharing is required for any future disasters. Also more speedy procedures for the transfer of funds 4

5 need to be introduced. One of the main conclusions of the evaluation was that additional training is required in the Mexican Red Cross. Relations with other organisations The German Embassy offered a financial contribution from its Government, substantially strengthening medical assistance in Cihuatlán, Jalisco. Medicines and medical supplies were purchased. This donation was included in the Federation's budget. With the help of the Secretary of the Treasury, foreign debt (SWAPS) was purchased, with an approximate benefit of 33%. Authorisation for this was obtained from the Federation. Many government and private bodies channelled their donations through the Mexican Red Cross. These mainly comprised medicines and the use of installations as warehouses or medical consulting rooms, as well as in some cases the loan of vehicles and support in carrying out the Programme activities. Conclusion It is unfortunate, in view of the large number of houses destroyed by the earthquakes and hurricanes, that the shortage of funds prevented the reconstruction component from being carried out. It is important that the technical delegate providing support to the National Society sees through all operations from beginning to end, so as to promote planning and project continuity jointly with the National Society. Darrel Diedrichs Desk Officer Americas Department Santiago Gil Director Americas Department 5

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