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An SOS - Friday 28, January-2005

Bharrat Jagdeo: calls for medical help. Bharrat Jagdeo: calls for medical help.
from Tim Slinger in Guyana
GUYANA’S President Bharrat Jagdeo has issued an SOS to Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean.

Guyana needs doctors urgently he told the WEEKEND NATION, yesterday.

The president’s concern came amidst worrying signs that since rains dumped a record amount of inches almost two weeks ago, the country could be faced with a serious health crisis as a result of stagnant water which remains in several communities.
In addition to the immediate need for doctors, Jagdeo identified a number of urgently needed items, mostly for the hard-hit East Coast communities, home to more than 120 000 people.
These include disposable diapers for both adults and children, sanitary napkins, Ventolin for asthma sufferers, insulin for diabetics, baby food, antibiotic cream, chlorine tablets, bleach, disinfectant and water containers.
“We need more help in the medical area. We need more doctors, especially at this time and maybe if we get the water out, I think that’s the most dangerous time. We are trying to clean up several thousand carcasses. There is an endless number of animals – horses, cattle, everything. All the livestock has gone,” Jagdeo said yesterday.
He added: “We are rattling up our infrastructure response, so we need more pumps and excavators into the country to help to get more of the water out and we need more help with the delivery of health care at this point.”
Asked if he had made any direct requests to Prime Minister Owen Arthur for assistance, Jagdeo explained he had been busy managing the country’s relief efforts but indicated a list had been sent to all CARICOM and international countries soliciting urgent help.
“People have been on water for between eight to ten days and we are worried about health in many of the communities. Fortunately, there has been no major water-borne diseases so far,” he said.
The Guyana leader also noted that 30 medical teams had been specifically deployed to affected areas.
“Later we can talk about rehabilitation and recovery, but at this point, these are top priorities — getting the water out and taking care of the health needs of our people,” he added.
Meanwhile, he dismissed as “nonsense” charges from the opposition and other influential parties that his government had been politicising the distribution of relief supplies.
“In every situation you have some people who try to capitalise and make mileage out of this and I understand that.
“But what I don’t understand and agree with is that in such disaster and at such a time that this should be done.
“This is not the time for politics,” he said.

During a WEEKEND NATION tour of the badly affected east Coast communities, some residents accused the Jagdeo government of distributing relief supplies on racial lines, charging that Indian communities were getting the lion share.
But the Guyana president said that from the inception, the opposition had been brought in on every committee.
“We are not attempting to hide anything,” he said, while pointing there were initial problems with the distribution since certain districts were not accessible because of dangerously high waters.
“We are sending truckloads of food over to them (the opposition) to distribute to people. I am not going to get involved in this level of pettiness.
“Our people need us to remain strong and not to descend to these levels.”
Nation News

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