Jun 08, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Water! Water! Water everywhere. This was what was confirmed by the caption, “Severe Flooding in Guyana Prompts Extensive Relief Effort” (New York Times June 3). It has to be bad, extremely bad, when flooding in this country merits space in the New York Times. Well, it is bad, with the then known extent of havoc wreaked further emphasised by the supporting detail that, “More than 6,900 households have been severely affected by flooding across the small South American country in the past several weeks, according to official estimates.” It is now June 7, and additional rains have only intensified the woes of Guyanese across widest spans in this land.
And yet we continue along the same paths that we have always followed: our house is underwater, our foundation is weakened, and still, we think that we can address in the most comprehensive manner, and most successfully, the plagues that menace the 750,000 plus inhabitants of Guyana. According to the New York Times article, one struggling Guyanese woman, surrounded by what looks like an ocean of endless water (it is for her and neighbours) had this to say: “This is madness,” while adding that she has never seen such flooding in more than 60 years of living in the Kwakwani section of Guyana. She was talking of the vastness of the floodwaters, but she just as well could have been speaking of our system of governance, our way of life, our lessons from mistakes that are never learned. Now America and the world know about a faraway place called Kwakwani.
There are numerous other waterlogged Kwakwanis laced across the length and breadth of Guyana. His Excellency, President Irfaan Ali, has said that this is among the worst disasters in memory with place after place, and more and more citizens staring at great devastations and greater losses. At least, he got that one right, for which Guyanese should thank him. We would thank him some more, when the mentality in the current government is that of ‘all shoulders to the wheel’ and ‘all hands must be on deck.’ In times of great distress, this is what works, when previous feuds and enmities are put behind, and there is simply working together to keep heads above water, to emerge out of a watery catastrophe in one piece, some hope still inside.
The first problem is that it is not so, and all indications are that this is set in stone. Nothing new or surprising there, except that it costs more in the long run, which nobody wants to face at this time, when the focus is on keeping feet dry, spirits up and heads high. The second problem is that it is there – that which costs more in the long run. To quote from the New York Times, “Officials have said that the flooding could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus and lead to other health problems if residents can’t find clean food and water. The destruction of crops, homes and livestock could also lead to economic devastation for some families in the hard-hit regions of the country; one of South America’s poorest.”
We are poor materially currently, but we don’t have to be poor mentally. Yes, the scope of flood relief efforts have been commendable, but there is so much more that can be done to rally besieged Guyanese, whether they are at Mora Point, or Black Bush Polder, agricultural or urban, or the goldfields in the near and more remote hinterlands. Remember, what we said before: all hands must be on deck. It goes without saying that nobody in government, very few in divided Guyana, is listening, actually listening and making bona fide attempts and doing something about any of this.
The head fights the heart, and the feet of the nation are going in different directions, with watching to note which foot would crumble first. We are up to our eyes in alligators, and yet we carry on along as unconcernedly before on everything. We do this with oil and other natural resources, and we do so with governance and responding to the once-in-a-lifetime disasters that come our way and fall on our heads. It is obvious that when Guyanese news, in this instance massive flooding, makes the New York Times, it is a signal of grave trouble. It is bad. When will the hurting stop?
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