Impact of the Floods in Guyana on the Health Sector- Situation Report, 30 Jan 2005
Health facilities have been severely affected, as most septic tanks and latrines were flooded and are unusable. Their contents have spilled into the flood water, making this water hazardous to health. In the absence of available facilities, indiscriminate disposal of excreta in the surrounding floodwaters is a common practice.
The floods had impact on the health facilities is Regions 3 and 4. Surveys conducted by PAHO revealed that in Region 3, 25% of the 12 health centers are closed and have some damage. Region 4 (population of 75,000) is the most affected, where 22 of the 36 health centers (61%) were flooded, 12 health care facilities (33%) are out of operation, 3 (8%) have limited functional capacity and 7 (19%) are fully functioning. The damage reported includes loss of supplies (needles, drugs, vaccines, cotton, bandage, etc) and damages to water pumps, refrigeration units (Cold Chain), furniture, and electrical wiring.
PAHO has organized and guides the mobile health teams, visiting the shelters and communities in the affected areas, mostly by boat. Every day about 35 health teams composed of 7-10 persons deploy to conduct epidemiological surveillance and to treat diseases, mainly skin rashes. PAHOWHO has prepared and disseminated epidemiological surveillance forms, trained personnel in epidemiological and disease surveillance in shelters and in the communities. PAHO/WHO also does the data analysis and coordinates the response to outbreaks in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
PAHO/WHO has also prepared models for providing medical care in disaster situations, shelter care and school health and has developed clinical protocols and guidelines for different skill mixes, all for use by the mobile teams
All 80 villages along the affected east coast of Guyana are being visited and thousands of people have received medical treatment. On Sunday, 30 January 2005, the turnout of health workers was very low, and only 8 teams could be dispatched. There is also a shortage of medical doctors to accompany the mobile teams. It might be difficult to maintain such a labor intensive operation for the long duration
To date, 4302 person live in 43 shelters, up from 3300 a week ago. This increase is likely due to an improved surveillance and counting and not necessarily due to an actual increase in persons. These shelters are located on the second floors of schools and other higher buildings as well as in many domestic residences accommodating other victims of the floods. One concern is the number of people living in crowded and congested spaces, with limited facilities. The GDF manages 20 of these shelters with a population of about 3065. It was reported that in some shelters the flush toilets on the higher floors are still working. Some shelters do not have this facility.
There is an increase in skin rashes (42% of the cases) and fevers (30%) but the number of diarrhea cases is stable at around 15%. Vigilant monitoring and active case detection will continue. Since 22 January, epidemiological data is being collected daily and made available to the Ministry of Health.
Needs for shelters:
Removal of garbage, mosquito nets (long-lasting, pre-impregnated), food for babies, diapers, sanitary napkins, provisional sanitary facilities.
Needs for health centers:
When the water recedes and the affected population begins to go back to their homes, the priority will be to recover the health system capacity in these areas, continue the disease surveillance and give medical assistance to these communities. Some of the activities required to reopen the health centers affected include:
- Clean up and disinfect the infrastructure (floor, wall, etc)
- Clean up and sanitize furniture and medical materials
- Collect and disposal the solid waste
- Restock drugs and medical supplies, as well office supplies
- Clean up septic tanks, water tanks, toilets, latrines
Needs for epidemiological surveillance:
Lab technicians, testing materials and reagents.