PNCR’s Response to the Guyana Flood Situation

From:         The General Secretary, People’s National Congress Reform

To:              All Party Overseas Groups

Matter:       The PNCR’s Response to the Guyana Flood Situation  

Date:         February 11, 2005

Re:            Newspaper Articles on the Flood



The Party has been reporting on the technical medical aspects of the recent flooding.  These reports have been based on those received by our representatives in the field.  In recent times features in the local press have confirmed the contents of these reports.  The Party therefore considered it necessary to share with its overseas groups, friends and supporters those press reports, which are of this nature.  Accordingly, we forward for your reading and study articles from, Kaieteur News and Caribbean Graphic Online.


Two of these articles under the caption “Guyana Death Toll from Flooding Rises Higher” and “Health Risks Increase in Guyana”, which appeared in the Hardbeat News and Caribbean Graphic respectively deal with the effects of the Leptospirosis outbreak on the Guyanese Population.  Attention is drawn to the comments of the head of PAHO/WHO in the latter. Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandhi is reported as saying that  

Health workers should not focus solely on Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis has a wide range of symptoms that can mimic other diseases. We should be careful not to overlook the other diseases that may be a result of the flood, such as tuberculosis or pneumonia”.   

The article in the Kaieteur News points to the recommendation by the World Bank Disaster Assessment Team that there was an urgent need to repair and strengthen the East Demerara Water Conservancy Dam (EDWC) and the drainage and irrigation systems before the next rainy season. Another article in the Kaieteur News captioned “Overtopping of Mahaica Creek Continues” refers to the overtopping of the EDWC into the Mahaica area. According to the report, residents termed this situation the worst flood waters they have experienced. The waters have entered their homes and businesses. 

Below are the articles in Question: 

  • Guyana Death Toll from Flooding Rises Higher

Hardbeatnews, GEORGETOWN, Guyana - Friday, February 11, 2005: Guyana’s death toll from the flooding has risen to a whopping 33, according to officials of the country’s Ministry of Health. Twenty-two of the dead are suspected Leptospirosis cases while seven were blamed on drowning, three on dehydration and two on delayed care. Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy yesterday made the disclosure in a statement issued to the media but added that he is optimistic that a “few of these cases will be removed … after our evaluation later in the evening.”

Of the ‘lepto’ deaths, some 19 are reportedly men. Health workers continue to distribute doxycycline, the antibiotic used to contain the outbreak, and were reviewing hospital records to determine if other people have died from the disease. Leptospirosis is passed to following exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, especially rodents, according to the Center for Disease Control. – 

  • Health Risks Increase In Guyana

Leptospirosis is a major concern in Guyana, as the number of deaths and suspected infected cases continues to rise. The bacterial disease is usually caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals.


The People of Guyana refer to it as 'Flood Disease.' Twelve deaths have been confirmed as related to Leptospirosis.


The rapid increase in suspected cases of leptospirosis has led to an overburden of the Georgetown Public Hospital, which is the only public hospital for Georgetown and the East Coast. All day people were lined up to get doxycyline as prophylactic treatment. Guyana’s Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy said via a GINA press release that 78 people were being monitored and 10 of them were suspected of having contracted the disease. He also said that of the 81 samples sent to Trinidad to be tested, 35 tests had been completed so far and of these seven tested positive.


Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, PAHO/WHO representative in Guyana, warned that health workers should not focus solely on leptospirosis. "Leptospirosis has a wide range of symptoms that can mimic other diseases. We should be careful not to overlook the other diseases that may be a result of the flood, such as tuberculosis or pneumonia," she said. "In the coming weeks we should also be very alert to cases of vector-borne and water and food-borne diseases. The floods created an enormous breeding capacity for mosquitoes. We have to take into account that this may also lead to outbreaks of dengue."


PAHO is actively monitoring new cases of leptospirosis and collaborating closely with the Ministry of Health in Guyana to prevent a further increase in cases. Prophylaxis is being distributed on a large scale in the flooded areas, with 120,000 persons already receiving a weekly preventive dose of 200 mg. of doxycycline. People coming from the flooded areas to mobile clinics who show symptoms of leptospirosis receive treatment. PAHO is also distributing health promotion and disease prevention messages through the newspapers, radio and posters.


Guyana is already mobilizing retired nurses to return to the hospital. PAHO offered financial support to facilitate the recruitment and employment of retired nurses. PAHO also relieves the immediate need for additional space by facilitating 200 renovated cots and the purchase of extra mattresses. Georgetown Public Hospital has relocated the psychiatric clinic from the hospital in order to create room for the extra patients with flood-related diseases.


Guyana’s Minister of Labour Dale Bisnauth in a GINA release refutes as false the rumors that he is suffering from Leptospirosis and that he had died. Minister Bisnauth said that on the advice of his doctor, he submitted himself to a medical examination on February 3 and was released from hospital on February 4 with a clean bill of health. 

Meanwhile, Nancy Rickford, Coordinator, at the Guyana Flood Relief Committee (Canada), has circulated an appeal from the Guyana Ministry of Health for at least 150,000 units of the antibiotic DOXYCYCLINE 100 mg, in either capsule or tablet form.

·        Conservancy must be strengthened – World Bank

    urgent disaster management plan needed

The World Bank Disaster Assessment Team estimates that it is urgent to increase the capacity to effectuate repairs to strengthen the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) dam and the drainage and irrigation systems in the short term, especially before the next rainy season starts in June, to avert the threat of new flooding.

Two Dutch experts have proposed that a disaster management plan be established for flooding situations before the upcoming May-June rains.

This plan would include measurement of water levels of the EDWC and actions that should be taken once critical levels are reached.

The World Bank has been evaluating the requirements for the next 3-12 months for immediate repairs and more long-term rehabilitation of the drainage system and dam management in the affected regions.

The assessment found that the Crown Dam, closer to the urban areas, will need strengthening as well.

The World Bank also envisages that a more comprehensive study of the long-term requirements of the water management system will be needed.

The two Dutch experts have shared with the Joint UN Environmental Programme/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Environment Unit (UNEP/OCHA) their first findings and recommendations with regard to the flooding situation in Guyana.

They have identified two areas of concern: the EDWC dam and the East Demerara Coastal Zone.

The report stated that EDWC dam is an “old” and “fragile” construction, consisting mainly of peat.

In many areas patchworks are covering ancient breaches or recent over toppings.

Long stretches of the dam are covered with trees and vegetation.

There is widespread misbelief that trees strengthen the dam, while these are actually causing weak spots, the report stated.

The first recommendations of the two experts are to substantially upgrade the emergency works to strengthen the dam, using in particular contractors with floating equipment. OCHA said.

This will improve the most critical stretches and create extra freeboard.

They also suggested limiting the speed of small boats in the Conservancy as their waves eat away the fragile top of the dam.

On the East Demerara Coastal Zone, the experts describe the flooding situation as drastic and the first priority should be to get the water out of this area.

The discharge can only be carried out through the sea wall, by making use of the existing damaged outlet structures and pumping, they said. The experts recommended that the dysfunctional outlets be inspected and that customized solutions be identified for each structure in order to facilitate the discharge.

Further to their assessment, the experts also propose that the following measures be implemented before the coming rainy season of May-June:

*Small and feasible rehabilitation works on the recent patchworks on the Conservancy dam should be carried out.

*The drainage functions of the outlet structures on the Conservancy dam and the sea wall should be improved. The experts recognised that there is no time for thorough construction works; however, they believe that the control over the drainage situation can be improved considerably if appropriate measures are implemented.

As a medium and long-term perspective, the experts also recommended that rehabilitation works for the whole drainage system (outlets, culverts, drains and EDWC dam) should be carried out to improve preparedness for future flooding threats.

The results and first recommendations of the two Dutch experts have been shared with relevant national authorities, including the Cabinet, and with partner agencies, in particular the World Bank.

Further details including requirements will be provided by the experts, in collaboration with the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, to assist the donor community and partner agencies in addressing outstanding needs.

The UN Flash Appeal launched on Tuesday will provide the framework for emergency and transitional assistance of the UN family in Guyana for the next six months.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Youssef Mahmoud, with support from the UN Country Team, will lead the process of eventually ensuring a transition from the relief phase to rehabilitation.

OCHA and UNDP will be collaborating in UN Country Team disaster preparedness strengthening in Guyana.

At the same time, UNDP is planning for the implementation of its capacity building project presented as part of the UN Flash Appeal, which proposes to contribute to the enhancement of disaster risk management capabilities at the national level.


·        Overtopping of Mahaica Creek continues

Flood waters continued to rise yesterday at Mahaica and residents are afraid that they too will become prey to diseases, as the Mahaica River continued to overflow its banks.


Yesterday marked day two of what Mahaica residents termed ‘the worst yet experience' with the flood waters which had begun to enter their homes and businesses.

Residents said the problem stems from the fact that the water from the East Demerara Conservancy Dam is being blown into the Mahaica River. They place the blame squarely on President Bharrat Jagdeo who they complained ordered that the waters from the East Coast be blown into the Mahaica Creek.

The waters have caused several residents of Unity/Vereeniging area to relocate to their upper flats while shop owners are contemplating their next move and several poultry farmers are already counting their losses.

Neighbourhood Democratic Council overseer Diadat Harydat said that the overtopping of the western embankment started at about 15:30hrs Tuesday and lasted for about two hours, as result of the rising tide compounded by the water from the East Coast that is being blown into the creek. He said that through efforts on the part of several officials and the NDC, a contractor worked through the night to shore up the Belmont Road embankment with sandbags. In addition, a water pump was installed at the number two sluice and this had temporarily alleviated the situation.

Yesterday, the shoring up continued with over 1000 sandbags but all in vain as the waters over flowed a few yards down the Belmont road with much more force.

“This thing ah de worst me ever see and me live here all me life… the water never come up so high,” one irate woman said.

Overseer of the Unity/Vereeniging NDC, Diadat Harydat said he has never seen flooding to such an extent at Belmont. The waters on Tuesday flowed over the road at a constant depth of six inches for about two hours. The overseer as well as residents reported that Tuesday's waters flooded shops and further compounded the soggy and smelly situation in the area.

Yesterday, when Kaieteur News visited the area, the roads were all dry but within an hour, the water from the overflowing Mahaica Creek had gushed into drains, yards and bottom flats.

At Mary's Hope sluice, a pump was in operation blowing waters from Mary's Hope into the Mahaica River via the Mary's Hope sluice which drains the Supply area and several rice farm lands.

But this effort was in vain. When Kaieteur News arrived, the water had already started creeping across the road and back into the Mary's Hope canal. This also resulted in some erosion of the road.

One of the pump operators said they were using the pump in an effort to save their rice crops and to keep the water from rising in residents' yards.

At the Unity/Vereeniging Mahaica area on the Belmont Main Road, the water had risen to as much as a foot in some parts. Within minutes of Kaieteur News' arrival, the water had covered parts of the main road.

In some cases, the water which was blocked by the sand bags, diverted and made its way to the road through several embankment side shops.

The operators of a hymac, which was being used to shore up the old slaughter house dam, had to be abandoned by its operators as the waters quickly surrounded it.

“We been trying to save the water from coming over but we had to run and leave this thing cause the dragline almost fall in the creek…the water just raise fast and start over flowing more than the day before,” one of the dragline operators reported.

When Kaieteur News visited the dam, water was gushing over it in two areas. The dragline which was tilted towards the river was immovable.

The NDC overseer said efforts will be made to improve the situation but lamented that there are no guarantees in some areas.


General Secretary
People’s National Congress Reform