Brazil – El Niño Forest Fires OCHA Situation Report No. 3

R e l i e f W e b
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 09 Apr 1998

Brazil – El Niño Forest Fires OCHA SituationReport No. 3

Ref: OCHAGVA – 98/0184

1. The UNDAC team, which has been in the State of Roraima since 31 March 1998, completed its mission to Roraima on 7 April 1998. The team carried out aerial and ground assessments in coordination with the seventh Amazon Brigade, in charge of the overall emergency operation, with local authorities, representatives of the indigenous community and other NGOs involved in this operation.

2. The assessments covered several regions: South/South-West, Central and North of the State of Roraima and allowed to collect vital information on the damage caused and immediate relief requirements.

3. On 6 April 1998, the members of the team were received by the Governor of Roraima to whom they presented a “résumé” of their activities and findings.


4. The affected area covers the municipalities of Alto Alegre, Amajari, Apiau, Bom-Fim, Canta, Caracarai, Iracema, Maraca, Mucajai, Normandia, Pacaraima and Uiramuta. According to the National Institute for the Amazon Research (INPA), the total area burned is approximately 9,254.7 km2 corresponding to 54.1% of the total area affected by the fires (some 17,000 km2).

5. Presently, with the recent rains, the situation is under control all over the State, with some fields burning (queimadas) in the regions of Apiau, Caracarai and Pacaraima. Aerial assessment carried out by the UNDAC members on Monday, 6 April 1998, indicated that most of the fires that had broken out in the ecological area of Maraca, 170-km north-west of the Boa-Vista, were already extinguished.

Population affected

6. Fires combined with a severe drought that has been affecting the State since August 1997, caused damage on the rural population, including the indigenous people.

7. Eight ethnic groups (Macuxi, Yanomami, Wapixana, Ingarico, Taurepang, Yekuana, Waiwai and Waimiri-Atroari) up to approximately 39,000 people live in the State of Roraima.

8. Estimated figures indicate that a total of 12,000 people (comprising indigenous people and farmers) have been affected by drought and fires, of which approximately 7,000 are in very serious situation (lacking water and food).


9. According to the Secretary for Agriculture, thousands of cattle have been killed by the fire and by the prevailing drought. Approximately 700 barns have been destroyed.


10. Damage was registered on approximately 300 electric power posts, wells, bridges, schools and health centres.


11. Reportedly, the number of cases of malaria, as well as respiratory problems, skin infections and diarrhoea cases, has increased sharply, in particular within the indigenous communities.


12. The UNDAC Team has identified several requirements that have been structured in immediate, short and medium terms according to the existing priorities and needs. Assistance would involve the following areas:

Immediate needs

Food supplies – Approximately 12,000 people are in need of food, of which 7,000 need immediate assistance. Food baskets are required for three months for these critically affected people. A food basket for one month contains 20 kg of rice, 30 kg of manioc flour, 8 litres of oil, 1kg of salt, 10 kg of beans, 1 kg of coffee, 5 kg of sugar and 1 kg of milk power.

Most needed medicaments – “Mefloquina” – 17,000 tablets (250mg); snake bites serum “polyvalent liofilizado” – 1,000 units; other medicaments for respiratory and skin infections.*

Seeds – Approximately 400 tons of maize, 600 tons of rice, 40 tons of beans and 50 tons of vegetable seeds. Of these quantities, 40 tons of maize, 11 tons of rice and 18,500 tons of beans have been requested by the Indigenous Council of Roraima to assist the most affected indigenous people in several regions of the State.*

Tools – Different tools, including machetes, shovels, pickaxes, fishing-lines and fishing-hooks.

Wells – Approximately 72 wells should be urgently open to meet basic needs in water supply.*

Short / medium term needs

Housing – 104 units for 624 people.

Environmental priorities

  • An environmental assessment to evaluate the damage on the different Biomes and their natural resources caused by the fire and serious drought.
  • The acquisition of permanent NOAA AVITAR antennae for receiving local data for fire monitoring.
  • Enforcement of fire bans and renewal of fire licences.

* Detailed information on the above-mentioned needs is available upon request at the UNDP Office in Brasilia.


13. The Argentinean fire fighters, which were involved in the emergency operations, already left Brazil, having their work praised by the Brazilian authorities. Meanwhile, approximately 200 military personnel and fire fighters continue to carry out combat operations in the north/north-west of the state, supported by six military helicopters.

14. Measures have been announced by the state/federal authorities, in order to curb illegal burning of fields, mobilising the army and military police. At the same time a general information campaign has started, mainly through radio broadcasting, alerting the population to avoid burning fields (queimadas) especially in the present circumstances that, in spite of recent rains, still offer favourable conditions for fires.

15. Food supplies continue to be distributed by the federal/local authorities to the affected people. The government of Roraima has created an emergency commission, composed of several sectoral departments (e.g. planning, agriculture, environment, infrastructure and health).

16. For coordination purposes, donors are requested to inform OCHA Geneva, as indicated below, of bilateral relief missions/ pledges/ contributions and their corresponding values by item.

17. This situation report and further information on ongoing emergencies are also available on the OCHA Internet Website at:

Telephone number: + 41/22/9171234
In case of emergency only: + 41/22/9172010
Interim Desk Officer: Mr. Dmitri Balabanov, OCHA Disaster Response Branch, direct tel. +41/22/9172827
Contact for medias: Ms. Elena Ponomareva, direct tel. +41/22/9172336
Telex 41 42 42 ocha ch
Fax: +41/22/9170023



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