Fear of disease rises as Guyana flooding worsens

Published: 25 January 2005 0:00 CET

Allison Ali in Trinidad

The flooding situation in Guyana is worsening with each passing day as torrential rains continue to drench the country. Over 200,000 have been affected by the rising waters, caused by incessant rains since December 26, 2004.
At least six people have died in the floods, while many have been forced to seek shelter on higher ground. There is increasing concern about the spread of disease.

“We have reports of children suffering from diarrhoea, skin diseases, vomiting and coughs and colds,” said Dorothy Fraser, director general of the Guyana Red Cross. She noted that while local health centres and hospitals were trying to reducing the impact of diseases, they had very limited medical supplies and were also flooded.

More than 40 inches of rain have fallen since December 26, the heaviest recorded rainfall since 1888, forcing thousands of people from their homes in the capital region of Georgetown.
The areas under water are mainly from Golden Grove to Georgetown and the most affected communities are Albouystown, Shopia, Better Hope, Coldingen, Enterprise Gardens, Paradise and Enmore which are located in eastern regions 1, 4, 5 and 6. At least three off the ten administrative regions in the country have been declared disaster zones.

There have also been reports of confusion in some villages like Pouderoyen, where residents are protesting because shelters are filled to capacity. Anxious residents of Canal Numbers
One and Two on the West Bank Demerara are fearful that a dam which separates a reservoir from their homes could give way. The dam has begun to wear thin as the water spills over the top.

Residents of both villages have banded together to prop up the worn sections, but there is still a lot more work to be done to prevent the dams from bursting.

Fraser said the Guyana Red Cross was trying desperately to evacuate as many people as they could from the affected regions. “We have a total of about 30 people at the Red Cross shelter and the number keeps on climbing. We are feeding these people and assisting them as much as we can.”

The Guyana Red Cross is also trying to distribute food to some of the most vulnerable in the communities. Fraser noted that they were hoping to feed and support at least 6,000 families over the weekend.

The International Federation launched an emergency appeal for 2 million Swiss francs (US$ 1.7 million) on 24 January to assist the Guyana Red Cross with its relief operations. Its Pan-American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) had already sent a flight into Guyana on 21 January with 21 tonnes of relief items, including blankets, hygiene kits, collapsible jerry cans, tarpaulins and kitchen sets.

“The flooding has reached crisis stage now. The Red Cross is working overtime and at full capacity. We have many people from both private sectors and non-governmental organizations assisting us, but if the rains continue there will be trouble,” Fraser warned.