November 27, 2015

ADRA and Adventist Schools Respond to Dam Disaster in Brazil

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency has mobilized efforts to help meet the needs of more than a quarter million people in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais who are without drinking water as the country faces one of the biggest environmental disasters in its history.

Two dams operated by a private mining company failed on Nov. 10, causing a massive toxic mudslide of orange sediment to go into the Rio Doce, one of the country’s most important rivers, and eventually make its way to the Atlantic Ocean. 

ADRA workers and schoolchildren loading hygiene kits on a truck in Brazil. (ADRA / ANN)

The toxic components in the mudslide, including arsenic, zinc, copper and mercury, have polluted the water supply in the region and made the water untreatable.

The mudslide killed 12 people, left 11 missing, and displaced 500 in the state in southeastern Brazil.

Immediately after the disaster, ADRA complemented the support offered by the national government and the mining company by distributing hygiene kits of soap, shampoo, toilet paper, disposable diapers and more to 600 families.

“This is the time for the church to show solidarity and compassion for people, no matter who they are,” said Fabio Salles, director of ADRA’s Brazil branch.

As the immediate needs of residents became more apparent with the ongoing flow of toxic mud, Seventh-day Adventist groups and institutions, including ADRA, Pathfinder clubs, and Adventist schools, have come up with various ways to collect and distribute water to families in need.

ADRA is aiming to distribute 200,000 liters (53,000 gallons) of water to 1,900 families in the city of Governador Valadares and 60,000 liters (16,000 gallons) of water to 570 families in the city of Colatina.

The Almirante Tamandaré Pathfinder club from the Central Sierra Seventh-day Adventist Church has organized a bottled water drive with the goal of collecting more than 1,000 liters (265 gallons) of water, said the club’s director, Tarcisio Goese.

The Barra de São Francisco Adventist School has become a collection base for bottled water, drawing contributions from other Adventist schools in the region.

“At this point it is important to join forces to help those who are being deprived of a basic need, especially families who have children,” said Luciana Ritter, principal of Barra de São Francisco Adventist School.