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Peru Earthquake Response: ILO calls for integrated employment strategy in UN Flash Appeal

News | 05 September 2007

GENEVA 31 August 2007 (ILO news) – At the UN Flash Appeal Launch for Peru, the International Labour Office (ILO) stressed the importance of integrating "employment-intensive job creation strategies” into the humanitarian and reconstruction response to the powerful earthquake that has rendered nearly 56,000 families homeless.

On 28 August, the United Nations launched an appeal for close to US$37 million to assist more than 200,000 people needing assistance after the earthquake that hit Peru two weeks ago.

In response, the ILO proposed in the Flash Appeal economic recovery and infrastructure projects totalling $2.25 million, which covers the gamut of temporary employment creation from recovery of affected home-based businesses to the rehabilitation of key infrastructure.

The flooding of coastal areas, the extensive destruction of houses, infrastructure and service facilities, crops, irrigation and fishery infrastructure, productive assets, and small and micro businesses, have severely impacted the livelihoods of people in the affected areas.

The economic sectors reporting the largest amount of damages due to infrastructure disruption, worker absenteeism, and power shortages, are the agro-industry and export sectors, the textile and garment sector, the tourism and hospitality sectors, public services and commerce. Most of the enterprises had to interrupt their activities because of power shortages, and the vast majority of the workers remained absent from work for some days following the earthquake. All these factors resulted in a general paralysis of economic activities, which in the case of the agro-industry and export sectors alone caused a loss of $16 million in the Department of Ica.

While the productive capacity of marginally-affected enterprises will be restored within a few weeks, the earthquake will have long-lasting consequences on the self-employed and micro and small entrepreneurs, and, in general, on the informal sector. It was estimated that the informal sector contributed 50% of the GDP in Ica prior to the earthquakes. The region’s economy will suffer accordingly as the informal sector workers near the coast and in the rural areas have lost not only their sources of income but also their meagre possessions.

Alfredo Lazarte-Hoyle, a.i. Director of ILO’s Crisis Response and Reconstruction Programme, emphasized the fact that “employment is a central element in all stages of disaster management and response: It is an immediate need as well as a development need, requiring job creation to be an integral part of both humanitarian and reconstruction responses alike”.

“Adequate and rapidly mobilized assistance for the reconstruction, repair and replacement of physical infrastructure, including work places and equipment for livelihood and job recovery, and the reestablishment of social protection systems, could result in 50 to 60% of affected individuals being able to earn a living for themselves and their families by the end of 2007. After 24 months, it is further estimated that around 85% of the jobs would be restored”, Alfredo Lazarte Hoyle said.

Currently, ILO SRO, together with the support of CRISIS and within the United Nations Country Team response, is undertaking initial consultations with the Government of Peru and other UN agencies to assess the impact of the earthquake on employment and livelihoods. In order to better understand the opportunities and recovery needs of the affected households, an assessment team composed of ILO officials from SRO and RO in Lima, and a socio-economic reintegration specialist from CRISIS will be formed.

Despite it being premature to estimate global damages and losses sustained by the informal sector, assessments of the fishery sector sheds light on the economic devastation: 50% of fishermen in some coastal areas have reported damages to their fishing equipment and boats, and some 25% of them have lost their boats. Subsequently, approximately 17,000 families living off of fishery activities in Pisco have been adversely affected by the light tsunami triggered by the quake.