GUYANA (9 February)
By mid-January, torrential rains caused severe flooding in the capital and along the East coast, especially in Region 3 (Essequibo Islands/West), Region 4 (Demerara/Mahaica) and Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice). Flooding affected about 200 000 people, almost 30 percent of Guyana’s population, and it is considered as the largest disaster that hit the country in the last century. The intensity of the crisis has had a serious impact on the normal coping mechanisms of families and communities, as many of the worst affected areas are also among the poorest. Although an official assessment of agricultural losses is not yet available, it is evident that farmers have lost much of their means of production, crops and livestock and the access to food is still a major challenge. Farmers are currently pumping out water to dry rice fields before the harvest season begins at the end of February to avoid the complete loss of the spring paddy crop.
Wheat is an important component of local diet (second only to rice) and it is entirely imported; import requirements in marketing year 2004/05 are forecast at average level of 40 000 tonnes. Rice exports in 2004 are estimated at about 230 000 tonnes as in 2003, but the losses due to flooding may significantly reduce that volume. The international community is currently providing emergency food rations to families in flood-hit areas.