Health Ministry moves against infections on flood-hit East Coast by Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
January 12, 2004

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Distribution of chlorine and disinfectant taking place in one of the flood-hit areas. Above Minister Webster helps in the distribution (Quacy Sampson photos)
Now that water has receded at most flood-hit East Coast Demerara villages, the Ministry of Health has moved into those areas to take preventative steps against possible outbreak of waterborne diseases and infections.

Yesterday, Public Service Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford, who is now acting Minister of Health, visited Buxton, Clonbrook/Ann's Grove area and Cane Grove, Mahaica, to oversee a distribution exercise of detergents to households affected by flooding.

She was also able to have a first hand look at the sanitation in the area in the aftermath of the flooding.

The distribution exercise was being conducted by Environmental Health Officers of the Ministry with support from members of the communities and entails the distribution of one pint of disinfectant and one-ten litre bottle bleach to each affected household.

Residents were advised to use the bleach to treat water intended for drinking and the disinfectant to maintain the general hygiene of their surroundings.

Pamphlets with the relevant information on how to apply the use of the detergents are also being distributed as Environmental Health Officers go from door to door to share related information on the prevention of waterborne diseases.

So far there has been no reported cases of any out-brake of infections in alarming proportions. What residents of those rural communities are concerned about is contamination of the water source with faeces that has washed up in the floods. Many of them use the "out houses" there.

This woman at Cane Grove had begun cleaning her yard shortly after she was given the detergents by health officials.

However, Dr. Westford said that so far there are about five cases of people with infections as a direct result of the flooding. Those cases were being treated at the health centre within the community.
We have seen other cases of skin rash, which occur before the flood, but they are now capitalizing on the opportunity of seeing the health team visiting the areas.

According to Dr. Westford the exercise of this nature was conducted for the first time as far as she could recall and people have reacted with surprise.

Government is being proactive in this aspect of dealing with such health issues that are related to flooding, she said.

"Obviously Guyana, because of our status... we don't have money and resources to adequately deal with illnesses whenever they occur. So what we are doing here is based on prevention and preventative medicine", she said.

The water has not totally receded. Many bottom houses are still waterlogged and Dr. Westford believes the rainy season is not yet over. However, she says the Ministry of Health will continue to monitor the situation.

There is one other area, the Mahaica Creek, where the Ministry needs to get personnel to carry out similar exercises sometime during next week. But that area is still under water.

There is no potable water supply system in the Mahaica Creek and people there are now more vulnerable to waterborne diseases. They depend on the creek for drinking water.

There are wells in the area from which drinking water could be drawn, but the floodwaters would have contaminated them, she explained.