Food for the Hungry helps local believers aid victims of a killer hail storm in La Paz, Bolivia

Food for the Hungry
Monday, 18 March 2002

Food for the Hungry is responding to the worst hail and rain storm in decades that devastated portions of the Bolivian city of La Paz.

A grant from Food for the Hungry allowed two local ministries to help flood victims. The ministries used the grant money to purchase blankets, warm socks, diapers, toilet paper, milk, rice, sugar, wheat and pasta. Additionally Food for the Hungry's La Paz office organized a staff food and clothing drive to provide the ministries with additional relief items.

The first group, Amor en Acción (Love in Action), targeted families both in the city of La Paz and also downstream in a region known as Rio Abajo. Many Rio Abajo families lost their homes in the flooding after the storm. Because of their location outside of the city limits the families in Rio Abajo have little hope of receiving any government aid.

The Rio Abajo region produces much of the fruit and vegetables sold in La Paz, and in addition to losing their homes many families lost their cash crop.

Amor en Acción was formed by missionaries with the World Mission Prayer League. Youth from the La Paz congregation Iglesia Evangelica Luterana El Redentor aid the ministry in reaching substance abusers, rural-to-urban immigrants, and street children in urban La Paz.

The second ministry, Ayuda Inmediata (Immediate Help), also works with children and adults living on the streets in or near downtown La Paz. Raging torrents of water carried away what few possessions the homeless had stashed away. The downtown flooding was worst on the streets where the homeless tend to congregate. Ayuda Inmediata is affiliated with the La Paz congregation Paisaje Kuljis, whose members often participate in the ministry's projects.

In addition to the substance abusers and the mentally ill, La Paz's street population includes many children who work as shoe shine boys or in the sex trade. The city is also a magnet for desperate rural women with small children, who come to La Paz to beg. These women and children line the main downtown streets, carrying all their possession wrapped in a blanket.

Food for the Hungry/Bolivia's central office is located in the La Paz neighborhood of Miraflores, just a few kilometers from the central downtown avenues that sustained much of the storm damage. The office sustained no damage, and no Food for the Hungry/Bolivia staff were killed or injured in the storm.

Officials reported that the flood waters that accompanied the hail killed 63 people, destroyed 28 homes and damaged 126 houses.

La Paz is located in a steep valley that acts as a funnel for rain. Even a normal storm brings a great deal of water into the main downtown streets, which run over a subterranean passage that channels the Choqueyapu River. Many victims died because they simply did not realize the water was rising faster than normal.

Food for the Hungry has worked in Bolivia since 1978 in sustainable development programs including agriculture, health, water and sanitation and child development.

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For more information, or to contact Food for the Hungry, see their website at:

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