Almost three years after the Ica earthquake, thousands still without homes

August 2nd, 2010

According to El Comercio, some 40,000 families have yet to receive help in reconstructing their homes and are having to suffer an exceptionally cold winter with temperatures as low as 3.6°c. Many have been forced to re-occupy collapsing adobe homes to prevent illness.

My two children have been sick many times with chest infections these last three years because of the cold. My little house collapsed during the earthquake in 2007 and I haven’t been able to reconstruct it. I now live among sticks holding up plastic sheeting for a roof. Here in the El Horno area no-one received re-homing funds promised by the government

The story of 32 year old Marleni Ostia Calderón, mother of two children aged 3 to 10 years old is common, not only in the city of Ica, but also in Paracas, Pisco, Chincha, Cañete etc etc.

Despite populist president Alan García’s promise to repair and rebuild all damaged areas within a record time of 6 months using the increasingly bulging central government funds, like most of his promises, it has come to nothing.

In the immediate aftermath, countries around the world donated tonnes of physical aid. Corruption meant truck loads of this went missing, bureaucracy meant much more sat in warehouses until local government officials noticed their mistake and burnt it all to hide the evidence, dumping the waste illegally on the region’s protected and pristine beaches. If you donated money or items for the victims, it may have been in vain.

Central government funds were re-allocated to provide small, but for those who lost everything substantial, payments to rebuild their homes. Many received something, but local mayors stole a great deal for themselves and their families.

It gets worse. In order to meet targets for reconstruction and give them impression reconstruction was actually taking place when it wasn’t, local authorities built the “Walls of Shame”.

These were walls built to hide the decaying rubble that they may or may not get round to clearing. From the streets, lined with them, it all looks quite impressive, but peer into their fake doors and windows and you’ll see these “new homes” don’t have four walls, nor do they have anything else.

Mark Beaumont: "Authorities have done very little to help reconstruction. However, recently they have come along and told shanty town residents that they must have their house on certain plots – keep in mind this was waste land before and you will start to realise how absurd this is. Many residents have had to move their house by as little as a few feet. This man is rebuilding his house from across the street."

Official health figures, like most intensely massaged by the current government, show an increase of 2% in repository illnesses in the past three years. The truth is some 50,200 children under 5 have suffered such problems according to El Comercio. 97 elderly people have died as a consequence of pneumonia in Ica in this period.

It is these conditions that have forced many to abandon their government issued tents and plastic sheeting to sleep in the ruins of their old adobe dwellings that could collapse at any moment.

I have three girls aged 6, 5 and 3. The cold is insupportable and in the nights my kids suffer so much. Sometimes we have to go to sleep in the homes of relatives, especially when the rain enters through the plastic sheeting”. – Nélida Barrientos Mañuito

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