Red Cross relief effort intensifies in flooded Guyana

Published: 27 January 2005 0:00 CET

Allison Ali

The Guyana Red Cross has begun a relief operation across the country to assist victims of flooding, the result of torrential rains as more than a metre of rain fell in the past month, affecting more than 200,000 people.

So far the Red Cross has distributed aid to 14,285 beneficiaries – almost 3,000 families – in the eastern coastal area of Guyana, where people have been most affected. Volunteers are distributing food parcels and other essential relief items, such as hygiene kits, blankets and water purification tablets.

But the depth of the flooding means that some areas are difficult or impossible to access, and volunteers are having to use boats and high trucks to get around. “We are using whatever resources we have, so that we can reach as many people as possible, especially those who are the most vulnerable,” said Dorothy Fraser, director general of the Guyana Red Cross.

The International Federation launched an emergency appeal for two million Swiss francs (US$ 1.7 million) on January 24 to assist the Guyana Red Cross with its relief operations. The funds raised will be used to assist 6,000 families with food and non-food relief items. The Federation’s Pan-American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) has sent two flights of relief items to Guyana, including blankets, hygiene kits, collapsible jerry cans for carrying water, tarpaulins and kitchen sets.

The rainfall, which began on December 26, was the most recorded in a comparable period for more than a century. At least three off the ten administrative regions in the country have been declared disaster zones.

Now, the rain has begun to ease, and the floodwaters have started to recede, allowing residents in some communities to start clean-up operations.

The Red Cross headquarters, which was converted into a shelter last week, is housing 30 people whose homes were flooded. Red Cross volunteers are cooking more than 400 meals a day to distribute in the city to people who are unable to cook or have no access to a meal, as well as feeding those at the shelter.

Fraser said the Red Cross was working with the Ministry of Health to acquire some non-prescription drugs to deal with some of the diseases that were caused by the flooding. Health teams in Guyana have already treated over 25,000 flood victims as part of a massive response to the disasters.

The Ministry of Health is also putting into action a response to possible dengue fever and filaria outbreaks – both diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes that thrive on stagnant water. The response plan includes the use of impregnated bed nets, fumigation and pouring diesel into drains and onto stagnant water. Disinfectant will also be distributed extensively to households across the country.