‘All hands on deck’ flood response in Guyana

The response to Guyana’s ongoing flood situation has always been a coordinated, all hands on deck response with involvement from all necessary stakeholders including those at the central, regional and local government levels, international and Caribbean agencies, religious and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector and civil society. 

The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) began receiving reports of households suffering from floods on May 18, 2021, and immediately coordinated efforts with all of the necessary monitoring and response agencies including the Hydrometeorological Office, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, and activated regional response systems through the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. 

Through the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, the Regional Democratic Councils (RDC), Municipalities, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), continue to conduct assessments and assist in the distribution of relief supplies across the country.

The CDC also deployed assessment teams to every Region in Guyana to determine the severity of flood and the impact on residents and households in order to formulate its plan of action as it relates to collaborating with stakeholders to offer the necessary relief.

The National Emergency Monitoring System (NEMS), which is in operation 24/7, has also been gathering data and conducting analysis. Residents can utilise this system to report impacts from flooding or any natural disaster by contacting NEMS on 226-1027 or via WhatsApp messages on 600-7500. 

Getting immediate help to those who need it most

The deployment of humanitarian and other relief supplies to affected areas began with immediacy. The first batch of food hampers were deployed on May 19, 2021 and to date the CDC has disseminated over 21,000 cleaning hampers and over 26,000 food hampers to 36,000 households in more than 300 communities in all ten administrative regions.

Shelters were also immediately established to house residents being displaced by the flooding, with the first shelter being established on May 19 in Region Nine. 

As the flood situation advanced, subsequent shelters were established and to date in Regions Two, Five, Nine and Ten, a total of nine shelters are housing 216 persons. 

The CDC has been able to extensively reach out to the residents all across the country particularly through the vast support from several sectors.

Government on the ground

Central Government has played a pivotal role in providing support with Government Ministers going into communities to assess the situation and listen to the concerns of residents and farmers in order to understand their needs and provide the needed assistance. His Excellency President Irfaan Ali has since called for immediate relief effort to focus on health and distribution of food supplies. He also called for a comprehensive drainage assessment to be conducted. Initial relief supplies in the form of hampers, medical kits through the Ministry of Health, where disseminated. Infrastructural evaluations and maintenance from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) through the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) , Hydrometeorological Office, and Ministry of Public Works were activated to monitor of drainage in communities and farmlands.

Considering the impact on farmers, the MoA has been providing support by providing animal feed and evacuating affected animals where necessary. The MoA continues to provide consistent updates on pertinent information that guides our national approach to dealing with the national disaster, and monitor how the flooding is affecting livestock and farmers.

The GDF has supplied personnel to manage evacuation, shelters managment and assist in the packaging and loading of hampers. It also made its helicopter and boats available to transport relief hampers and conduct aerial assessment across the various affected regions.

The CDC continues to work with the Guyana Water Inc (GWI), Ministry of Public Works (MoPW), on getting consistent and accurate updates as it relates to how the flood has impacted the various sectors across the country. The MoPW continues to monitor the accessibility of roadways to enable the coordination of the dissemination of aid, while the MoH continues to monitor for any possible outbreak of water borne diseases.

As of June 16, 2021, the multi-stakeholder National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) became fully operational to ensure an enhanced coordinated response to the flooding in order to prevent duplication, maximize resources and work collectively as one team.

The NEOC includes representative from key government ministries and agencies along with representatives from the Private Sector Commission and Guyana Red Cross Society.

Regional and local government coordination and support networks established 

Throughout the flood, the CDC has been working with RDCs, NDCs and other local government organs to bring humanitarian relief to the people in the form of distribution of food and cleaning hampers along with medical supplies, transportation services and fuel. These items are distributed through the regional and local organs.

Consistent exchange of information from regional stakeholders has also helped and continues to help with logistics operations and public information. 

Corporate social responsibility 

Moved by the severity of the flooding, and cognizant of their corporate social responsibility, the private sector came out with overwhelming support, with the CDC having since received over $100 million in cash and other relief supplies from numerous entities. 

These donors include but not limited to ExxonMobil, China National Offshore Oil Company, China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), Canada Guyana Chamber of Commerce, Association of Chinese Enterprises, Falcon Logistics and Stena Drilling, and Torginol Paints.

Several agencies including Ansa McAl, China Trading, Grace Kennedy, Massy, the Guyana Red Cross Society also provided support in the form of supplies.

GuyOil also supplied the CDC with fuel for its vehicles and boats distributing supplies in remote communities, while Digicel donated cellular phones with unlimited data and credit for use by the response personnel.

The University Social Work Unit and students of the Anna Regina Secondary school have also made donations to persons affected. 

Help from the Caribbean Region 

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has pledged continuous support, and has been working with the Regional Security Service (RSS) to deliver relief items. Within 12 hours of a request being made, Guyana was able to receive a quantity of Cots to support flood affected residents and the regional body continues technical support.

Additionally, the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) donated 10,000 surgical masks, thermometers and purification tablets.

International Intervention

On June 9, the Head of State officially declared a state of national disaster by virtue of the flood which has been classified at Level 2 in keeping with the CDEMA mechanism. While the country has been classified as Level 2, five regions are in Level 3 state of emergency.

Given the extent of the state of emergency, talks have begun with several international partners to support the national efforts to being relief to affected residents. We have begun talks with the United Nations, European Union, the US Ambassador and Canadian High Commission among others to garner as much support as possible to support relief efforts.

The United Nations through its various arms has been supporting the CDC by providing logistical and geographical data along with relief supplies.
The Guyanese diaspora from the US and Canada have also overwhelmingly come on board to contribute supplies and funds with pledges to offer support throughout the period.