The early arrival of sub-freezing temperatures in Peru’s southern highlands has brought severe cases of hypothermia, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, leading to the deaths of 246 children.
Every year, dozens of children, especially those under 5 years, succumb to cold-related illnesses in rural Peru’s mountain communities. But this year’s early winter temperatures have provoked a major spike in fatalities, up 40 percent from last year. Experts are blaming climate change for the March onset of extreme cold, snow, hail, and strong winds that usually don’t strike the region until June.
The government declared a state of emergency in the affected regions, but critics complain that the cold conditions are predictable and that the deaths could have been avoided. Oscar Ugarte, Peru’s minister of health, has said that blame lies with regional officials who have failed to distribute resources, rather than with the central government.
Non-governmental organizations have stepped up efforts to rush donated clothes and equipment to the affected regions. Local press reported on Monday that the organization Solaris Peru has delivered 24 tons of clothes to 1,290 families in its first week of operations.