A state of emergency has been declared in at least 20 municipalities in the
state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, because of drought.
Meanwhile, in Brazil’s northeastern region, 42 municipalities in the state of Pernambuco’s semi-arid region are considered to be criticial because of drought.
According to João Amorim, who administers a cistern-building program (Programa Um Milhão de Cisternas) for an umbrella group (Articulação no Semi-írido Brasileiro) (ASA), that provides assistance in the semi-arid region, there have been isolated rain showers in the area but not enough to improve the situation.
ASA, which congregates some 800 organizations that operate in the Brazilian northeast region and the northern part of the state of Minas Gerais, is working to mobilize families and organizations in the struggle to deal with the effects of the current drought.
Amorim explains that the cistern-building program seeks to provide each family in the region with a reservoir of 16,000 liters of water which should be sufficient to get them through eight months of drought.
“Last year we had four times as much rain as we expected. Unfortunately it came in a short period of time so we didn’t have sufficient storage space,” he says.
Since July 2003, with assistance from Brazil’s Ministry of Social Development and Hunger Combat and a budget of some US$ 26 million (70 million reais), ASA has been able to build 60,000 cisterns. The target for 2005 is to build an additional 50,000 cisterns.
Translation: Allen Bennett