Government of Guyana seeks aid after flooding

News and Press Release
Originally published
(New York: 2 February 2006): On Saturday 28 January, the Government of Guyana called on the United Nations and the donor community to provide international support for the rehabilitation of drainage infrastructure and restoration of livelihoods following flooding in the country. The Government has officially declared the areas around Pomeroon and Supenaam (region 2) and Mahaica, Mahaicony, and Berbice (region 5) disaster areas.
Preliminary indications are that up to 3,500 families have been affected by the floods. Most of these households depend solely on agriculture and have lost their entire livelihood. An estimated 95 per cent - 1,400 acres - of crops have been lost in the region around Barima and Waini (region 1), while 9,000 acres of rice, livestock and cash crops have been lost in the region 5.

Although most families have remained in their houses in spite of the flooding, approximately 400 households have relocated to five shelters managed by the national Civil Defense Commission.

In the flood affected areas of region 5 there is no regular water supply; communities rely principally on creek- and rainwater. A preliminary assessment done by the Ministry of Health (MOH), with support from the Pan American Health organization (PAHO), indicates that the Mahaicony River is contaminated. While there is no evidence of any unusual cases of diarrhoea in the flooded areas, there have been an increasing number of suspected cases of leptospirosis, a disease usually caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. The MOH, in collaboration with PAHO/World Health Organisation (WHO), is conducting health surveillance.

The national Civil Defense Commission (CDC), which is responsible for coordinating response to disasters, has been coordinating with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The United Nations Emergency Technical Team is coordinating the relief provided by United Nations agencies. With support from PAHO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the NGO Oxfam, the MOH has begun a public health education campaign. The UNICEF has also provided a boat to facilitate the surveillance and visiting of the homes by the Regional Health Authorities in region 5, has undertaken a rapid assessment of schools in region 2, and is providing cleaning materials for seven schools.

Together with the CDC/Guyana Defense Force and MOH, PAHO and UNICEF have undertaken a rapid assessment of six shelters in Region 5 and are coordinating with the Red Cross and Oxfam for provision of essential hygiene and food items. The UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will focus on providing nutrition for babies and children, dry food rations for families, and hygiene kits.

Since December, Guyana has experienced regular high intensity rainfall, gradually leading to flooding of low-lying coastal and riverain communities. The affected areas include the riverain areas of Barima, Waini, Pomeroon, Supenaam, the Essequibo Islands, West Demerara, Mahaica, Mahaicony, Berbice, East Berbice, and Corentyne. The waters continue to rise around Mahaica, Mahaicony, and Berbice, and higher flood levels may yet occur. Guyana has a total population of 750,000 persons, of whom 90 percent live on only 10 percent of the national territory by the coast and along the east and west banks of the Demerara River.

For further information, please call: Stephanie Bunker, OCHA NY, 917 367 5126, mobile 917 892 1679; Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA Geneva, 41 22 917 2653, mobile 41(0) 79 473 4570.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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