Flood co-ordination weak, Oxfam says
Stabroek News, January 15, 2009
The severe flooding of coastal communities in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and others situated alongside rivers has been met with “weak” coordination on the ground by the relevant stakeholders, an assessment conducted by Oxfam International has revealed.
It has also found that the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), which is responsible for coordinating emergency responses, has been hindered by limited resources.
Head of the Task Force to Aid Farmers, Brian Greenidge, was however, reported last night by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as saying that NGO’s report is not comprehensive and does not speak of the numerous actions taken to alleviate the situation.
According to the Oxfam International Situation report, the flooding situation this year seems to be comparable with the situation in 2005, when the country experienced its worst case of extensive rainfall and flooding. Continuous intense rainfall, which began in December, has led to flooding of communities, with the worst hit communities having approximately five feet of water in some areas. Low-lying agricultural areas have been the hardest hit.
Following a temporary suspension of the Oxfam DIPECHO program, and the consequent lack of information, Oxfam International decided to send out a team to assess the situation.
The assessment found that there has been “weak coordination on the ground” exemplified by the absence of large scale responses by stakeholders.
However, it did note that there had been small-scale interventions from the Guyana Water Inc. -which has been providing drinking water-and by the Guyana Red Cross, which has been supplying hygiene kits to affected residents, while the Ministries of health and agriculture have been visiting several of the more severely affected areas. While acknowledging that there had not been a large outbreak of diseases or any food shortages, the assessment noted several other areas of concern, including the high percentage of flooded latrines, the breakages and contamination of piped water affecting the provision of potable water, and the widespread loss of property by farmers. It estimated that the livelihoods of several farms have already been substantially affected.
The assessment also highlighted the inability of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) to adequately deal with the flood situation. The CDC has been mandated by the government to coordinate the collection of data and the response, but although willing it has very limited resources to accomplish this mandate, according to Oxfam.
It said apart from a few exceptions, the CDC does not receive sufficient or quality inputs from other stakeholders. However, Oxfam International is supporting the CDC in enforcing its role and will be helping it to take up its responsibility to lead the emergency operations through “advocacy/ lobby, capacity support, sharing of tools and experiences.”
The report also acknowledged the limited presence of international organizations active in the country at the time and has promised to engage international organisations in an attempt to have them take up a more active role. Already several community mobilisers and support staff from the DIPECHO project and several senior officials from Oxfam International are in Guyana to offer support.
But according to GINA, Greenidge, who is the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, said the assessment sought to discount the efforts of the agencies which have been working assiduously to bring relief to affected communities. “The key issues raised are not comprehensive on flooding in communities in Regions No. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and the report does not reflect the many drainage interventions by the NDIA (National Drainage and Irrigation Authority) and the MMA/ADA (Mahaica, Mahaicony,Abary/Agricultural Development Authority) working with local government bodies to aid in the removal of flood and high water accumulated in low lying areas due to excessive rainfall,” he was quoted as saying.
Greenidge added that drainage projects completed prior to the rainy season and various interventions that are continuing through the rainy period have yielded positive results in the quick removal of accumulated water. He said: “The NDIA has been working closely with farmers, community groups and residents in implementing many of the drainage works. The work of these two agencies was well coordinated in all areas in supporting the RDCs and NDCs. To date the NDIA and Ministry of Agriculture have not received a positive response from Oxfam in establishing a MOU to foster collaboration.”
In relation to the availability of information and the response by the Ministry of Agriculture, Greenidge said it was very clear that Oxfam is not fully in touch with the real situation on the ground, noting that since the flooding started the Ministry of Agriculture has deployed Veterinary Officers and Livestock Assistants in addition to Crop Reporters and Extension Officers, to provide technical assistance while compiling a data base of persons affected among other agronomic and economic information.
Other key agencies such as the Guyana Rice Develop-ment Board (GRDB) and the New Guyana Marketing Corporation have a coordinated response to the situation on the ground and this information is passed on daily to the CDC which has a 24-hour office that leads the overall coordination effort, GINA reported.