Don Ángel went from being a zoologist who worked with livestock to leading the water and sanitation office in the province of Gran Chimu de Cascas in Peru.
He admits it’s a somewhat odd career move, but the district water office was interested in his experience in environmental management and work with rural communities. This experience was invaluable last year when the district of Cascas was hit by the worst flooding in decades, washing away most of the district’s community water systems.
“The force of nature was so strong that I saw huge rocks and big trees moved by the force of water,” Ángel said. “I have not seen a disaster like this since an earthquake in 1973.”
In Cascas, water sources, springs, and pipes were all destroyed. With all major roads washed away, there was no transportation in or out of Cascas. Helicopters had to bring in food and fuel. Over 30 communities lost their access to improved water services for months.
“Eighty percent of the water systems in Cascas were affected,” said Ángel.
District water and sanitation offices like those Ángel leads support community-level water committees that manage water systems. That made Ángel’s team first responders after the flooding.
“As soon as the floods hit, we contacted all of the communities to see what problems they had with their systems,” said Ángel.
With support from Water For People and funding from USAID and other NGOs, Ángel’s office was able to do a quick diagnostic and find resources to fix the damaged systems. In September – five months after the flooding had ended – all of the systems had been repaired and families’ water access was restored.
Although the flooding set back some of Ángel’s goals, the district of Cascas is on track to reach every family, clinic, and school with water in the next two years. Not even devastating floods could keep Ángel from unswervingly moving toward this achievement – safe water for every single person in his district.
One year ago, in March 2017, the worst flooding in a lifetime devastated northern Peru, including the district of Cascas where Water For People works. The flooding was attributed to the combined impacts of a changing climate and El Niño and many lives in Cascas suffered the effects. With inspiring resilience, community members and local leaders in Cascas worked together to rebuild after this terrible and overwhelming disaster. To commemorate the flooding a year later, we want to share how three different people in Cascas overcame challenges in the aftermath of the floods. Read Doña Maria’s and Don Michael’s stories.