Guyana hit by floods again

Published: 3 February 2006 0:00 CET

Allison Ali in Trinidadi

As of mid January, Guyana started to experience torrential showers which forecasters predict will continue for at least another 12 days. While the situation is not as grave as last year, there is still cause for concern. The most affected regions are the coastal areas of Pomeroon, Mahaica, Michoney and Abbary. Additionally, the rains in the highlands have caused the East Coast water conservancy dam to fill up and this is posing a big threat to the country. The west coast of Demerara has also reported some flooding in a number of communities. In the capital, Georgetown, there are reports of flooding in sections of Queenstown and Sophia as well of high waters within low-lying areas of Sophia, Bourda and Queenstown.

The Guyana Red Cross (GRC) estimates that over 35,000 people have been affected by this year’s flooding. The GRC is currently focusing its attention on Regions 1 and 5 which have been the most affected. So far the National Society has distributed 80 food hampers, 100 mosquito nets, 32 hygiene kits and a small amount of tarpaulins.

Mrs Dorothy Fraser, GRC director general said: “The situation is quite bad overall and we are using all our resources in our efforts. Currently we are concentrating on assisting families in temporary shelters.”

There is also concern regarding the longer-term effects of the flooding on the people in the worst affected areas, and in particular, on subsistence farmers. The most serious threat is the potential loss of thousands of acres of rice crops if the water does not subside rapidly. Outbreaks of leptospirosis have been reported and as a result the Ministry of health is taking preventative measures in the worst affected areas.

Mrs Fraser said the GRC is urgently seeking both local funds and donations of hygienic items such as bath soap, soap powder, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitary napkins, shampoo, toilet paper and diapers for children and adults. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is on standby to deliver any resources that may be needed by the GRC. Thomas Doyle a delegate from the Pan-America Disaster Response Unit is in Guyana conducting assessments and gave an update;

“We are also distributing mosquito nets, blankets and health awareness materials. Some people are stranded in their homes and cannot make it to shelters. But we will try to our best to reach everyone.”
Mrs Fraser added that the immediate needs include blankets, stoves and hygiene items which are currently being purchased with local funding. Long term needs may include agricultural seeds and tools.

Flooding is becoming a regular hazard. In 2005, three days of torrential rains which began on January 14th caused serious flooding in Guyana, affecting more than 150,000. This was the third time since late December 2004 that rains had caused flooding in the country’s capital in Georgetown and other coastal towns.