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Children's health and safety a priority as Guyana experiences its worst moment

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA - 23 JANUARY 2005 - President Bharrat Jagdeo has declared three of Guyana’s ten administrative regions (Regions 3, 4 and 5) disaster areas as unprecedented rainfall caused flooding in parts of these coastal regions, with a record 30 inches during the first two weeks of January. The inadequacy of the natural drainage systems under these circumstances resulted in the most severe flooding in the history of Guyana, affecting nearly half of the country’s 800,000 population.

Reckoned by some to be the worst flooding to hit the capital city, Georgetown, and the East Coast of Demerara in Region 4,  in living memory,  it  rendered the business center and all city markets “no-go zones”.   Business premises and homes and roads were transformed into waterways, as sandbags, brooms and buckets were the order of the day.

Estimates are that in the greater Georgetown area, at least 120,000 people are affected and at least 40% are children.  Around 200,000 people on the East Coast and West Coast and Eask Bank of Demerara are suffering consequences of the flooding, as water rose as high as 5 feet in some communities.

Many families have lost everything, including their personal and household belongings, crops, livestock and their homes.  Many children are now threatened by health hazards associated with contaminated water.

Initial assessments indicate that the main concerns are providing shelter and sanitation, preventing diseases and access to water and food.

According to the latest press report, the death toll from flood waters could be as high as five with, the recent discovery of three bodies found floating during the last 48 hours.

Meanwhile, GYD$200 million (US$1.12 million) have been earmarked by the Government to bring relief to flood victims.  President Bharrat Jagdeo has established a National Committee of representatives of Government, other political parties and civil society to coordinate the relief effort.  This is being done through five task forces with responsibilities for health, food, shelter, water and public information.   A Joint Operations Center (JOC) has also been established with the Guyana Defense Force and police providing the operational support.
Government’s efforts to bring relief to flood victims is being supplemented with international donor contributions being co-ordinated by the UN Resident Coordinator with UNICEF playing a pivotal role in the operations.   Further, UNICEF has been working in close collaboration with the Task Forces, the UN Agencies and other organisations involved in the relief effort.

To date as many as 42 shelters have been set up in public buildings including churches, school buildings and other public places.

UNICEF teams visited a number of these shelters and found the majority of persons are children.  The office is now working closely with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Shelter Task Force to ensure these shelters are child friendly.

Together with PAHO/WHO, UNICEF has been playing a crucial role in organizing mobile emergency health teams to provide immediate health, water and sanitation services and public education to affected communities.  UNICEF has provided an initial supply of essential water and sanitation items, Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS), water purification tablets and water containers.  While the provision of cooked meals for approximately 40,00o households daily has proven a great challenge, UNICEF has also been providing dry rations to the food task force for the preparation of hampers.

Following its initial response UNICEF is now planning to focus on the three main areas:

  • Prevention of diseases among the affected population through support for the Health Task Force
  • Ensure children and families in shelters have access to basic health and sanitation services and psycho-social support for children through the creation of child friendly spaces
  • Monitor the access to food and provide support to the food task force


For more information contact:
Maria Ribeiro, Representative UNICEF Guyana
Tel. no. 592 226 7083, 227 3662, 225 9993; Fax 592 2265984
E-Mail mmribeiro@unicef.org

Leslyn Thompson, Communication Officer, UNICEF Guyana
Tel. no. 592 226 7083, 227 3662, 225 9993; Fax 592 2265984




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