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Tens of thousands of children and their families are affected by the flooding.
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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, 26 January 2005 - Tens of thousands of children in Guyana are in danger due to severe flooding caused by the worst downpours in living memory.
“We have seen very heavy rains since the end of December,” said Maria Ribeiro, UNICEF Representative in Guyana. “A week ago we had five days of torrential non-stop rain. Many, many areas of Georgetown and the East Coast have become totally flooded.”
“200,000 people have been affected, 35,000 of them are severely effected and homeless. We can estimate that at least 50 per cent of those affected are children," Ms Ribeiro said in an interview.
The flooding prompted President Bharrat Jagdeo to declare three of Guyana’s 10 administrative regions disaster areas.
The unprecedented rainfall has caused flooding in parts of Guyana's coastal regions, with a record 30 inches during the first two weeks of January.
Many affected families have lost their homes, livestock, crops and personal belongings. Children are now threatened by health hazards associated with contaminated water.
“The biggest threat facing the children is disease, but also that they are not able to get on with normal things like going back to school,” explained Ms Ribeiro.
UNICEF has already provided relief supplies including oral re-hydration salts, jerry cans and water containers, dry rations and materials for sanitation management for people living in temporary shelters. UNICEF is also working with the government’s Health Task Force to provide immediate medical care and disease prevention messages.
“Things like how to make sure the water you drink is safe, how to avoid getting skin rashes because many of the children obviously wanted to go and play in the water, and one of the first advisories was to tell parents to please keep their children out of the water,” Ms Ribeiro said.
UNICEF’s focus over the next few days will be to make sure that relief efforts are being made to help those most in need, while reducing the risk of epidemics as the floodwaters begin to recede. UNICEF will also advocate for children to go back to school as quickly as possible.