Severe Guyana Floods Dwarfed by Tsunami Disaster

While more than four weeks of unprecedented torrential rains have affected over 300-thousand people in the South American country of Guyana—nearly half the population of the country—and widespread flooding is producing water-borne diseases, very few international media outlets have picked up the story of the country's distress, aid workers in the area report.

Dwarfed by the magnitude of the Indian Ocean quake-tsunami disaster, the 40 inches of rain that fell on the South American country in January and subsequent deaths because of waterborne disease have gone virtually unnoticed by mass media and the world, said Dr. Victor Boodhoo, a Guyana native in Titusville, Florida.

"It's gut-wrenching how these poor people and the whole country (are) suffering," he told the Florida Today news agency. "Sometimes though, with all these disasters, people experience donor fatigue. People get burnt out giving for every natural disaster."

Gayle Davidson, a Melbourne Internal Medicine Associates nurse from Melbourne and a member of the Melbourne Church of Christ, similarly commented that "This hasn't gotten a lot of attention because of the tsunami.”

“But that's halfway across the world,” she said.

Davidson, who has done missionary work in Haiti and Honduras, told the Florida Today she would be leaving for Guyana on Monday to go and support the efforts there.

“I just feel this is where I need to go, and no one else is going,” she stated.

According to the Florida Today, more than a dozen people have already died in Guyana and things are bound to get worse as standing water sparked more than a hundred cases of Leptospirosis—an infectious disease generally contracted by the direct splashing of urine from infected or carrier animals into the eyes of susceptible animals. It can also be spread through the skin and mucous membranes from contact with water contaminated with leptospires.

"The disease is already causing a lot of problems," Boodhoo said. "There is urgent need for medical care, medical supplies and food and water." Meanwhile, poor sanitation and an overloaded waste management system continue to increase risks of disease.

With relief diverted to the tsunami region, many relief groups have been scrambling to respond, according to Mission Network News (MNN). Ramon Williams with Worldwide Photos, a religious media agency located in Sydney, Australia, reported that churches in the area responded immediately with food distribution and aid to those displaced and affected by the floods. But supplies are running out as food becomes scarce.

Food for the Poor (FFP), which ministers to impoverished people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, has already sent 500-thousand pounds of aid, including shelter, food and medicines, but are in need of more help.

"We have many organizations and churches and missionaries who come to us for help and basically, those people have been coming for twice the amount that they normally come for and in half the time that they usually come for it," Food For The Poor's Angel Aloma told MNN.

Aloma said the relief they provide supports the evangelistic outreach that exists. "Because we work almost exclusively with churches, with Christian organizations in Guyana, this empowers the churches. Once people see God's goodness through other human beings, they are very receptive to the Word of God."

She told MNN that of the country's population of 705 thousand, nearly half have lost homes. Meanwhile, food security has become a battle.