HEAVY FLOODING has affected more than 157 villages in Suriname over the past 48 hours and 15,000 people have been displaced already. “Operation Falawatra” (Operation “Low Tide”), the government's aid operation currently being carried out by the national army and police, has been hampered because of continued torrential rainfall, and the situation is deteriorating further. Several hours ago, the President of Suriname issued a state of emergency and at the time was expected to request international assistance. Up to the time of writing this had not been done, however, despite several relief teams having placed aid and personnel on standby.
Since most of the information available is in Dutch and as there is minimal coverage by the mainstream media regarding the situation in Suriname, the World Wide Help Group have been blogging around the clock, after having made contact with people on the ground. Volunteers are also helping translate information from live broadcasts from Dutch into English.
Maya Matawlie, who's been doing an amazing job of reporting from the ground in Suriname says that:
“the National Coordination Center for Disaster Relief (NCCR) is the central point for the disaster relief in Suriname, NCCR is also known as the relief crisis center and their evacuation plan is being executed from the airstrips of the villages of Djumu and Godo Olo. In these villages relief camps have been set up and the army is already in the area. The size of the disaster and the amount of help that will be needed is not apparent yet. According to the statistics there are approximately 15,000 people living in the upper Suriname-river area and about 9000 people in the upper Tapanahony area. The villages that have suffered the most damage are : Botopasi, Pikin Slee and Asindonhopo. The newsflash that several children have perished is being denied by the Minister of Regional Development”.
Fons in Brussels, one of the translators assisting the efforts at the WWH blog, reveals that in the Netherlands the Surinamese community are distressed at the ongoing crisis and stresses that the media reports being televised paint a picture of governmental chaos amidst major destruction caused by the floods:
“I have seen pretty hapless authorities on TV, they have no clue what is happening, there seem very few contacts in the area. People are pretty upset about the government, it is thought that the president acted too late. Now the government is first moving in the whoever they have within the national army instead of providing aid to assist people. Although the main needs are food, medicines and shelter there are no planes yet to bring in aid. Although the country's relief crisis center has already been established at the Ministry of Defence in the capital — Paramaribo, the army wants to first set up relief operations in each of the affected areas as there is only a limited number of planes plus they want to have the army there before relief items are transported around”.
In her latest instalment, Maya Matawlie recounts her efforts to gather information from the authorities:
“I went off to find out how thing were going because the press in Suriname was not very helpful.
So I went to the ministry of defense (no pictures due to security). The NCCR (coordination center) is there. I found out that there are no casualties apart from the one person.
From there I went to the NDP (National Democratic party), the largest political party in Suriname; they had something on the radio urging all their members to donate goods and what not. Mr. Lachin, the coordinator for this, told me that they are trying to get dry goods (as in rice and milkpowder), bottled water, milk for babies, clothes and whatever else they can get – as much as possible. Since the NCCR wants the aid to go from one central point, the NDP will help them as far as possible. . . .”
If you speak Dutch, you can help the team at World Wide Help by translating to information into English or whatever other language you have in your linguistic arsenal. Any assistance you can point their way can be sent to suriname[at]worldwidehelp[dot]info.