The population of Colombia's Caribbean coast in particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events associated to climate change. Due to the ongoing drought, many women in the department of Guajira, in north eastern Colombia, have to walk for up to two hours to fetch drinking water. The terrain is almost impassable; there are very few proper roads. Food is scarce. A large part of the rural population cannot meet its basic needs, especially in the indigenous communities. In order to help the indigenous communities prepare for the impact of the frequently recurring floods, storms and droughts, the GRC provides support in the form of capacity building, technical advice and practical improvements.
Emergency plans and workshops
Only around half of the municipalities in Guajira have Municipal Plans for Risk Management and emergency response plans in place; thuscommunities often face difficulties when preparing to respond to disasters and to reduce risk in their area. This is why the German Red Cross and Colombian Red Cross are supporting the development of emergency plans and strategies in 7 municipalities.In doing this GRC and CRC not only provide technical support, but also, but also train local officials -for example, in emergency water management and humanitarian logistics. In the event of a disaster this helps to ensure faster procedures for the procurement, storage and distribution of relief supplies and for the deployment of aid workers. In addition, municipalities are supported in the establishment of crisis rooms, where relief can be coordinated in an emergency.
In 14 communities and two schools the population affected learns in workshops, among other things, how improved hygiene and sanitation practices can protect against disease and what has to be taken into consideration when storing water. Furthermore, community receive trainings on how to identify risks in their communities, designate evacuation routes and design communal preparedness measures. The workshops also highlight ommunities' rights and duties regarding disaster preparedness and services made available by the Colombian Government. To ensure that all members of the community understand the content the workshops are held in the indigenous language of the Wayuu people. Similar courses are also held for children at the region's two largest schools. In playful scenarios children learn, for example, how to wash your hands most effectively with only little water, why it is better to cover meals so that no flies can get on them and what they could do in the event of a flood.
Natural disasters severely threaten the livelihoods of the communities in Guajira. In the past, in times of drought or flooding, the Wayuu in particular lost a large part of their sheep and goat herds, which are part of Wayuu culture heritage, and used as important sources of food and income. German Red Cross and Colombian Red Cross support individual communities with practical precautions that improve and protect their livelihoods. For example, seeds, fertilisers and tools are distributed to 100 indigenous families to help them grow vegetables and forage for their cattle. In addition an elevated sheep fold to hold the community's animals is being builtto protect the livestock during flooding. In other communities the residents are installing water collection channels to conduct rainwater into the water reservoirs and thus improve the water supply. The actions are designed in a way that facilitates the replication in other communities Representatives of other communities are involved in the implementation process so as to encourage them to implement similar measures in their own localities and to provide them with skills and knowledge necessary for replication.