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President Irfaan Ali has admitted that “Guyana is facing the worst natural disaster in its history.” Many Guyanese knew this and are relieved the president has acknowledged what has been known for a while and felt as though the government has been ignoring the problems. Things are falling to pieces. Flood waters are not receding in some areas and in the areas where this is happening it is taking days to come off the land. When the water finally recedes it leaves behind destruction, damage, and the possibility of waterborne diseases.
In the wake of the disaster families have been displaced, their earthly possessions destroyed, and their crops and livestock gone. There is nowhere to turn and there is no expectation that the government will lend a helping hand beyond the ‘relief packages’ that will inevitably run out. There is hope and despair everywhere. Guyanese at home will have to rely on the generosity of those in the diaspora to get by, even as those in the diaspora may themselves be facing challenges with COVID-19, unemployment, etc.
With livestock and crops destroyed or threatened, prices for basic foods will rise. These increases will come on top of present increases in prices that Guyanese are already facing. Things are hard for the ordinary man. On top of the hardship, hundreds of workers are being dismissed. These workers will be added to the already 15.6 percent unemployment figure as reported by the Guyana Labour Force Survey.
The 15.6 percent unemployment number came out of the 51 percent participating in the survey, suggesting that the unemployment figure is much higher. Guyana is facing many disasters. Manmade, including poor decisions by the government that are seriously affecting the lives of citizens. Natural disasters are uncontrollable to some extent but could be better managed with proper governmental intervention and oversight. This has not been happening clearly as seen with the floods.
And even as people run helter skelter to get to dry ground and save their possessions they have to remember the pandemic. It is like a double whammy. In situations like these people make choices about which crisis they will prioritise. This is a fact of human nature that the government should not ignore. The reality is that things are likely to get worse before they get better. The frightening possibility is that if there is no national plan what could be the likely catastrophe.
The disasters Guyana is facing are natural and manmade and neither seems to be properly managed. This is the worst time in post-independent Guyana history. It takes dint of determination looking at things falling apart and having the confidence that the pieces could be put back together again. Guyanese will have to grit their teeth and face these herculean challenges, and hope things work out for the better.