Chairman of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan, says that the President must declare the flood-affected areas, particularly the farmlands, to be disaster areas, wherein the country could appeal for international help, which is the only approach right now that could prevent catastrophic consequences for the economy.
According to Ramjattan, the administration must start to be honest with the populace and acknowledge the gravity of the situation, and not seek to propagandise any further.
He noted that 40 inches of rainfall in December has already started to take its toll in the markets, with crops such as tomatoes skyrocketing again, this time not from the global financial crisis, but from farmers attempting to capitalize on stock in hand.
He noted that through interactions with farmers, they have already posited that the stock they have will be sold for higher prices, given that the stock in the fields are damaged and cannot be sold.
Ramjattan noted that, with the rains projected to fall at the same intensity into March of this year, which is unprecedented, rice and sugar will be significantly affected. He said that the country may not be able to fulfill its commitments to regional and international markets.
As it is, several rice fields that should have been reaped early this year are in jeopardy, while some others that should have already been reaped during the November/December period, and have not been, have forced farmers to push back preparations of their fields.
The same situation exists with the sugar industry, as cane would have been cut late last year and have recommenced growth, but with the heavy accumulations of water on the land, the sucrose content in the sugar canes will dwindle, hence reducing sugar supply from those canes extensively.
The AFC Chairman noted that the Government will try to explain that the water which has accumulated on the land is not as high as 2005/2006, but the danger lies in the fact that the water will remain in the farmlands until after March, and this will have a devastating impact on the economy.
“The Government was only trying to hide the reality of the situation, just like when it told a rotten lie that the country was insulated from the impact of the Financial Crisis.”
In January 2006, torrential rains caused serious flooding along the Coastal Plain, which is the most densely populated area of Guyana. As a result, the Government declared Regions Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara), Four (Demerara/Mahaica), and Five (Mahaica/Berbice) disaster areas. The coastal stretch between the capital, Georgetown, and Mahaica, on the eastern bank of the Demerara River, was particularly hard hit. The flooding affected approximately 290,000 people (39% of Guyana’s population); over half of them were women, and almost one-third were children under nine years.
It was the largest disaster to hit Guyana in the last century.
Overnight, thousands were forced to flee their homes in the capital and coastal villages, and close to 5,000 people have had to stay in temporary shelters.
Meanwhile, a large proportion of the affected families became trapped in their homes, depending on daily delivery of food and water and being highly exposed to disease and environmental health problems.
Three weeks after the peak of the emergency, an estimated 92,000 people still had water in their homes.
Many areas remained accessible only by boat, and the water level was reportedly still as high as 1.2 to 1.5 metres in some villages, while rivers had swollen alarmingly.
The risk of disease was a major threat to the wellbeing of the population in the affected areas, with several persons dying from the dreaded disease leptospirosis.
This time around, some 68 persons for 2008 were affected with the disease, with at least one confirmed dead.
Since the onset of the emergency, the United Nations system in Guyana has been working closely with the Government and other humanitarian partners to provide relief and assistance to those most affected by the floods.
United Nations agencies have been able to use immediately available resources as well as initial funding provided by the donor community.
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