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When disaster hits home

When hurricane Iota hit Colombia, there was a reason why refugees were among the hardest hit.

Rachael Adams | 22 Oct 2021

Home. Over the last eighteen months many of us have rediscovered the importance of it – how having a safe place to live affects our mental and physical wellbeing. For people around the world, including in the UK, a safe home is a luxury they cannot afford. And the consequences of this can be deadly.

When Hurricane Iota struck Colombia, one of the hardest hit places was Cartagena – home to thousands of Venezuelan refugees. They’re stuck in settlements where the soil is sandy and unstable and their houses are generally made of wood and plastic.

When the rains and winds hit, their homes didn’t stand a chance.

‘The water continued to rise and reached up my knees throughout the house... Thank God we are alive.’
Dailing, Colombia

Catastrophe

As the water got into people’s homes, walls were cracking, making many homes unsafe to live in. The strong winds upturned trees, causing even more damage.

‘The hurricane came and the water began sipping into the house through all the walls,’ shares Hernan, who lives with his wife and three children in a house with three other families.

‘In the street where we lived, the sewage ran freely, so it was very difficult to walk through all the waste and this water entered the houses.

‘It was very difficult during that time.’

Dailing, a mother of two, had a similar experience: ‘The water continued to rise and it reached up to my knees throughout the house… Thank God we are alive. We did lose some things, even though we already owned very little.’

Dailing with her two young children. They received mattresses, pajamas and bedsheets from Tearfund’s partner. ‘I really am very grateful to the people who made this possible,’ she says. Credit: Edrei Cueto / Tearfund

Dailing with her two young children. They received mattresses, pajamas and bedsheets from Tearfund’s partner. ‘I really am very grateful to the people who made this possible,’ she says. Credit: Edrei Cueto / Tearfund

A helping hand

Families lost so much due to the floods and were sleeping on cardboard. As a result, the number of children suffering from respiratory illnesses and diarrhoea increased. Through our local partner, Tearfund was able to provide immediate relief, including mattresses – reducing the number of children at risk from these sometimes fatal illnesses.

We also continue to work with local churches to help refugees recover from the trauma of the floods and to help them to rebuild. We are training church leaders to advocate on behalf of refugees to improve their living conditions.

‘The best thing they [Tearfund partner] gave us today was attention. It was a hug and it made us feel that there is someone who is willing to give us a helping hand in the midst of starting from scratch,’ concludes Hernan.

Pray with us

Draw or paint a house and write your prayers for people living in poverty – like Hernan – inside of it. This can be anything from joy and laughter to safety from flooding and disease.

Afterwards, stick it somewhere where you will see it often – in your Bible or on your fridge – as a reminder to pray for people who do not have a safe place to call home.

Rachael Adams


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