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Internet Help Call Has Kiwi Rescue Mission in Peru

New Zealander on rescue mission to Peru disaster

A New Zealander is on a rescue mission to Peru this week after receiving a call for help from the Andes via the internet.

Alison Young and Logan Muller with villagers in April.

Peruvian child farmer from region hit by snow storms .

Internet centres that Unitec computer researcher Logan Muller set up to give Andean communities access to agricultural information have now become lifelines to the outside world after the region was struck by freezing weather and snow storms, destroying homes and sending temperatures plummeting to -20 degrees.

“There are thousands of cases of respiratory infections in these villages and with their access to the internet they can email exactly what antibiotics they need,” he says.

Mr Muller flew to Peru yesterday to take medical supplies to the mountainous region, which is in a state of emergency.

Mr Muller is from Unitec’s Centre for Information Technology Research and has spent much of the past two years working on the project that introduced the internet into remote areas using two-way satellite technology. A scheduled trip to check on the project has become a rescue mission after he received emails from the communities asking for help.

“It is very hard for me to hear reports of families that I have worked with losing children and grandparents during this freeze for the want of basic medicines or resources,” he says.

The BBC has reported that at least 46 children in the region have died and Mr Muller says that, although the Peruvian government and the UN are working to help people caught in the weather, it is difficult to get help to the villages because of the high altitudes.

Donations from Unitec staff and a $15,000 contribution from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade means he can deliver antibiotics and children’s clothes.

It’s a treacherous 10-hour trip by four-wheel-drive to the main mountain towns, and the supplies Mr Muller has with him will be taken through the snow to the smaller villages by mule.

The head of Unitec’s School of Computing and Information Technology, Alison Young, went with Mr Muller on his last trip to Peru and says in the past, with no telephones or means of communication, it would have been almost impossible for the villagers to get access to the lifesaving drugs.

“Antibiotics that can be bought over the counter in Lima aren’t available in these towns. When I traveled there in April we bought antibiotics and took them into the mountains for the hospitals and for distribution at the missions.”

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