Brazil: ‘I call for global support and solidarity’

Brazil: ‘I call for global support and solidarity’
15 May 2024

By the Climate Centre

The IFRC Monday launched an emergency appeal for 8 million Swiss francs to scale up humanitarian assistance to communities affected by the devastating floods in Rio Grande do Sul – Brazil’s sixth most populous state that got an estimated three times average rainfall over nearly a week at the beginning of this month. The appeal has been kick-started with an IFRC-DREF humanitarian allocation of 1 million CHF.

The most recent death toll provided by the authorities stands at 147 people, with others still missing.

Describing the floods as unprecedented, IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said some 2 million people in both rural and urban areas had been affected, with hundreds of thousands displaced.

“Through this emergency appeal, the IFRC global network will support, for the next 12 months, 25,000 people who have lost their homes and are in urgent need of assistance,” he said on X/Twitter. “I call for global support and solidarity.”

Since the rains started on 29 April, Brazilian Red Cross volunteers have been providing first aid, health care and psychological support to people, and conducting hygiene promotion initiatives in shelters and helping people get in touch with loved ones.

The BRC has also sent tons of relief supplies to the affected areas, and with IFRC support they will scale up their response, focusing on further health and hygiene promotion, psychosocial support, and safe water.

‘We have to wake up to this force that is telling us we need to adapt and respect nature’

Daniel Bolanos, head of the IFRC’s Southern Cone Delegation, said: “In the immediate term, we will focus on caring for the physical and mental health of the most vulnerable people, ensuring that they have access to water – including information and means for carrying out household water disinfection and distributing cleaning and hygiene articles, blankets, solar lamps and advice on disease prevention.

“Recovery from the floods will take at least a year, and the Red Cross is ready to coordinate with the affected communities themselves on what needs to be prioritized and how to address them along time.”

Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology first said Rio Grande do Sul had seen three times average rainfall on 29 April – a pattern that continued until at least 4 May; as of Monday 13 May, the River Guaiba that runs near the state capital Porto Alegre was rising again, having already passed an all-time high once.

Climate Centre science lead Liz Stephens said today: “This region of South America is well known to experience floods even in the dying days of an El Niño, but with a warmer atmosphere that can hold more water we know climate change is increasing the intensity of this kind of event.”

Reuters this week quoted scientists as saying that southern Brazil’s location “at the confluence of tropical and polar currents has fed periods of increasingly intense drought and rains due to climate change”.

Ecologist Marcelo Dutra, a professor at the Rio Grande Federal University, told the news agency: “We need to move urban infrastructure away from high-risk environments and return space to the rivers … so they no longer impact cities with such magnitude. 

“We can’t oppose nature. We have to wake up to this force that is telling us we need to adapt and respect nature.”

Local residents unload supplies ferried across a river after their bridge was destroyed in the Rio Grande do Sul floods that have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. (Photo: Antonio Valiente/Anadolu)