5/30/2006

Indigenous villages flooded in Suriname: OCHA Situation Report

This OCHA Situation Report is an analysis of the impact of river flooding in South America due to heavy rains in May 2006. Around 175 Maroon and indigenous villages and numerous smaller settlements located along the riverbanks and on islands are the most severely affected. Approximately 22,000 people have been left homeless and have been displaced to nearby villages on higher grounds. At least 3 deaths due to flooding have been reported by the Suriname Red Cross (SRC). An estimated 60 percent of all home-based poultry livestock was affected. Agricultural plots and fishing facilities have been completely damaged.



Suriname: Floods OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Ref: OCHA/GVA – 2006/0071
OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Suriname - Floods

This situation report is based on information provided by the office of the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in Suriname and reports from the Government of Suriname, the National Coordination Centre for Disaster Control (NCCR), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Request for international assistance

The President of the Republic of Suriname has requested assistance from the UN and the international community.

Situation

1. Torrential rains starting around 1 May 2006 have affected the entire South and parts of the Central Amazonian Lowlands of Suriname. The districts of Sipaliwini and Brokopondo are the hardest hit. The heavy rain caused several major rivers, in particular the Upper-Suriname, Tapanahoni, Lawa and Marowijne rivers, to rapidly rise and submerge large areas. Lelydorp, which is 20km south of the capital Paramaribo, has registered 480mm of rain so far. Approximately 25,000 to 30,000 square km have been inundated. Authorities expect the situation to worsen until the end of the week with heavy rains forecast for the remaining 72 hours. While heavy rainfall is not uncommon during the rainy season, rainfall of this magnitude has rarely been encountered. As a result, disaster preparedness and response mechanisms for such an event are reportedly extremely limited.


2. The National Coordination Centre for Disaster Control (Nationaal Coordinatie Centrum voor Rampenbeheersing, NCCR) has made the following estimate of the affected population to date in the different relevant areas:

a) Area
b) Approximate total population
c) Percentage of displaced population
d) Areas mostly affected
e) Nr. of population severely affected

a) Tapanahoni b) 12,000 c) 60% d) Apomatopo, Lawa e) 7,200

a) Boven Suriname b) 15,000 c) 60% d) n/a e) 525

a) Boven Saramacca b) 1,500 c) 35% d) Poesoegroenoe and surrounding villages e) 525

a) Boven Coppename b) 600 c) information awaiting d) n/a e) n/a

a) Kabalebo b) 1,800 c) 2% d) Wanapan e) 36

a) Coeroeni b) 1,200 c) 40% d) Kwamalasamutu e) 480

a) Sarakreek b) 4,900 c) 100% d) All Areas e) 4,900


3. The following immediate needs have been identified:

• Immediate funds in particular for:
- Food
- Water
- Sanitation
- Emergency housing
- Transport
- Telecommunication facilities

• Skilled personnel in the coordination centre and for maintaining order and security in the affected areas;

• Skilled and knowledgeable expertise for early recovery and rehabilitation planning (including corresponding assessments) and coordination;

• Expertise with crisis management;

• Measurement equipment, satellite imaging and (hydrological) models.

Impact

4. Buildings such as policlinics, schools, shops, storage rooms, powerhouses, workshops, libraries, residential houses, tourist resorts, sawmills, ‘krutu osos’ (community halls) and spiritual places have been damaged. Telecommunication lines have been affected in several areas, i.e.: Pamboko, Jaw Jaw, Isadou, Nieuw Aurora, Pikin Slee, Botopasi, Futunakaba. In Danpaati, Manlobi, Massiakriki, Asidonhopo and Kajana two-way radio communications are blocked. Electricity lines in all flooded areas are affected. It is reported that medical facilities are still operational and they have HF radio contact with the capital.

5. Transport is a major difficulty because of the terrible condition (due to continued rainfall) of the only access road to the affected areas (Brokopondo: Afobaka road; Sipaliwini: road to Atjoni; Marowijne: road to Langatabiki/Bakaaboto). Air transport is very restricted due to unavailability of landing strips, which have been submerged or are rapidly deteriorating due to the frequent landings. The airstrips of Botopasi, Laduani, Kajana, Dritabiki, Kwamala, Apetina, Sipaliwini, Coeroeni, Amatopo, Tepu are not functional. Helicopter transport is expected to be the only possible transport to the interior if weather conditions deteriorate. Water transport is available using boats of local inhabitants, but fuel shortages are likely.

6. Around 175 Maroon and indigenous villages and numerous smaller settlements located along the riverbanks and on islands are the most severely affected. Approximately 22,000 people have been left homeless and have been displaced to nearby villages on higher grounds. At least 3 deaths due to flooding have been reported by the Suriname Red Cross (SRC). An estimated 60 % of all home-based poultry livestock was affected. Agricultural plots and fishing facilities have been completely damaged.

7. There is a risk of an outbreak of a diarrhea epidemic in most affected areas within the next 2 weeks, especially among children, due to flooding of sanitary places and cemeteries and dead livestock in the water. Malaria outbreaks might occur within 4 to 5 weeks.

National response

8. The Government of Suriname has declared the affected areas ‘disaster areas’ and established a Crisis Team composed of five ministers to manage the situation and activated a Crisis Centre managed by the NCCR. The UN has a liaison officer currently operating within the centre. The NCCR is in continuous coordination with the National Army and the Police Corps of Suriname and has included NGO Interior Network(1) representatives in its crisis centre. There are coordination meetings twice a day (morning and afternoon) between the NCCR and the Crisis Team.

9. The military is working to relocate those affected to higher ground and is also participating in a joint government/SRC/military rapid needs assessment of the current situation, the details of which will be provided to the UN shortly. It is also believed that a small stock of relief items is being distributed by the military.

10. A scenario analysis has been done and the ‘medium intensity’ scenario has been adopted (the scenarios ranged from a ‘best case scenario’ in which the rains would stop and the water level rapidly subside to a ‘worst case scenario’ with continued heavy rainfall causing increasingly more villages to be flooded, with casualties). In this scenario, rains will continue and the water will subside only gradually over a period of approximately one week, after which recovery measures can be undertaken. In case the crisis situation persists for more than 8 days, more permanent measures will have to be put in place for displaced persons.

11. It is expected that a surface area of 100 x 80 metres will have to be cleared for one camp for 500 displaced persons. At least five cleared areas will be necessary if all persons identified for evacuation are to be housed.

12. The SRC has participated in a joint Government/military assessment and has offered its services to the NCCR, with which they are in daily contact. Six trained members of the SRC’s Regional Intervention Teams (RIT) with expertise in water and sanitation, logistics, IT and telecommunications, and disaster response, are on stand-by. The SRC has stocks of relief items that will be made available. So far the SRC has not requested assistance but has stated that they may request 'supervisory' support if their RIT volunteers are deployed.

13. A UN Disaster Management Team (DMT) has been set up, consisting of the locally represented UN agencies (UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, PAHO/WHO). It has made a request for support to the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) and to OCHA. The DMT has initiated daily coordination meetings on 8 May among the major potential donors and development partners, namely the European Union, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Suriname, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Embassy of France, the Organization of American States (OAS) and UN agencies. One representative of the DMT has been integrated in the Crisis Centre headed by the NCCR.

International Response

14. The Government will declare the SRC as focal point agency to receive incoming international assistance.

15. At the request of the UN Resident Coordinator, OCHA will allocate an OCHA Emergency Grant of USD 30,000 for immediate humanitarian relief activities and is mobilizing a six-member UNDAC team, which is expected to arrive in Suriname on 11 May in the evening.

16. UNDP has mobilized USD 50,000 to respond to the emergency.

17. The Government of the Netherlands has decided to make a 1 million Euro contribution to the response to the floods, to be managed by the UN in country.

18. The European Union has indicated that an ECHO team will be deployed.

19. OCHA remains in close contact with the office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator and will continue reporting as further information is made available.

20. This situation report, together with the information on contributions and other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at
http://www.reliefweb.int