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Heavy flooding leaves more than 500 000 people without drinking water, Costa Rica

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Heavy flooding across Costa Rica has displaced thousands and disrupted critical water and sanitation services, leaving more than 500 000 people without drinking water across the country, according to International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies.

Torrential rains that have poured down on Costa Rica since mid-September, were made worse by Tropical Storm "Nate," which hit the country in early October, clogging drainage systems and disrupting waste disposal systems. Costa Rica’s national water agency has been working to restore services and is providing water cisterns and bottled water to the affected populations. However, communities in remote areas remain cut off from functioning sanitation services and clean water supplies.

"When water and sanitation are compromised, waterborne diseases and other related health risks become a serious concern," said Walter Cotte, Regional Director for the Americas of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). "More than 7 000 people have sought refuge in shelters and require emergency healthcare and clean water to prevent disease."

A state of emergency has been declared in the provinces of San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas where flooding has destroyed more than 124 000 hectares of land.

"We have more than 2 000 volunteers responding alongside national authorities to this national emergency that has affected 90% of the country," said M. Glauco Quesada, President of the Costa Rica Red Cross. "We are providing psychological support, rescue and first-aid services all over the country and coordinating with government, civil society and private sector. Also, our volunteers are bringing water, sanitation and hygiene services to thousands of people who have lost their homes and livelihoods to these floods."

IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for 1.5 million Swiss francs to support the Costa Rica Red Cross to provide emergency health care, cash, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and to help reconnect families separated by the disaster. The operation aims to reach 24 000 people (4 800 families) impacted by flooding from tropical storm Nate.

Featured image: Floods in Costa Rica – October 2017. Credit: Nitza Soledad Perez (via Twitter)

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