Bringing relief to drought-affected animals in Bolivia

20 February 2017

Bolivia's Andean plateau has been affected by severe drought. Tens of thousands of animals have died and many crops have been lost.

Thanks to your support, we're providing minerals, vitamins and seeds, which will produce enough feed to help more than 30,000 animals. Here our Disaster Liaison Officer, Dr.Einstein Henry Tejada Vélez talks about his experience witnessing the affects of the severe drought: 

When did you first hear about the drought in Oruro?

Last year, the rainy season was short and very insufficient. This means that plants did not have the needed time to grow. So, native grasslands where animals feed weren’t at their optimal condition. 

What were you thinking? What concerned you the most?

I was very distressed and anguished, not knowing what would happen because of the rain shortage. And at the same time, we also experienced unusually warmer temperatures, which is not common in that part of Oruro and in general in all highlands. My concerns were compounded by the news nationwide, and what people living in the area told me when I contacted them.


 

How did everything look on your first visit to the place?

I had the opportunity to visit the area at the end of winter. It was a devastating landscape. Plants that usually are green even in the winter/dry season, didn’t have leaves, or their leaves were very dry, which is an indicator of an extremely dry environment. This was devastating as they serve as food for sheep.

How were animals affected?

You could clearly see that animals were behaving differently; they were not as animated. Normally llamas produce lactic acid in their muscles because they are natural walkers, walking an average of 8km per day. In this case, they were stationary and had low spirits and we could see problems in their calves.  Some of them showed symptoms of the enterotoxaemia disease, which can quickly kill calves. Other animals had symptoms of bacterial disease and were suffering diarrhea. Veterinarians from SENASA (Bolivian National Service of Agricultural Health and Food Safety) reported animals were weak and suffering high levels of dehydration. Some had breathing problems as well. When we got close to a herd, we could hear labored breathing sounds coming from calves. All of this was caused by drought.


 

How long do you think will take for animals and people to recover?

Our support has been key and I feel that in the next months they will recover.  We have given them seeds and minerals to help them in the short term.They will also benefit from recent rain and should continue to do so until April when the rainy season ends. Now that the prairies are starting to recover, green sprouts have more nutrients and the minerals we gave them will stimulate animals to eat more from the new pastures. Minerals also help in the regulation of parasites.


 

How did people react when relief was brought to their animals?

You could see the people were very excited, I wish you were there to experience it.

Our beneficiaries receive our help with tears of happiness in their eyes. They are very grateful and have faith that all our help will encourage other institutions to help and make it a long-term sustainable project.

How many animals in total are we helping?

With the minerals we are helping around 30,000 animals for 2 months, while they recover from the severe drought. The seeds will become 270,000 tons of hay, which will help approximately 34,800 animals and benefit 1,100 families.

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