Luncheon lashes out
A day after presenting a ‘Situation Report’ which said that flood co-ordination here was weak and the local relief agency was under-resourced, Oxfam yesterday clarified that the document it prepared was not meant to be comprehensive and was just a “quick overview”.
The report by the international relief group drew criticism from the Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday and yesterday there was a stinging attack on it from the National Disaster Coordinator, Dr Roger Luncheon.
Oxfam in a statement on the furore said the report was intended to inform higher echelons within the organization about the situation on the ground and was not intended to provide a comprehensive oversight of all interventions taking place in Guyana at the moment, the agency said.
The release from the international agency came following statements by Head of the Task Force to Aid Farmers, Brian Greenidge, who was reported by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as saying that Oxfam’s report is not comprehensive and does not speak of the numerous actions taken to alleviate the situation. The non-governmental organization (NGO) Report had stated that the severe flooding of coastal communities in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and others situated alongside rivers has been met with “weak” coordination on the ground by the relevant stakeholders. The Report, which came out of an assessment conducted by the NGO, had also stated that that the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), which is responsible for coordinating emergency responses, has been hindered by limited resources.
In a press release yesterday, Oxfam said that it is currently collaborating with the CDC “to obtain a good overview of the current flood situation and to get a better picture of ongoing or planned interventions”. The release said that it is providing on-hand support for collection and analysis of data, supporting assessments, sharing tools and its international experience to assist the CDC with its role as the coordinating body.
It noted that on Tuesday, the NGO had released an internal ‘Situation Report’ on the current flood situation in Guyana. This, it said, was intended to inform higher echelons within Oxfam on the situation on the ground and, where needed, request for support. The report was shared with a number of donor organizations working in the region to raise their awareness and interest, the release noted.
The Report had stated that the assessment found that there had been “weak coordination on the ground” exemplified by the absence of large scale responses by stakeholders. It did note that there had been small-scale interventions from the Guyana Water Inc. -which has been providing drinking water-and by the Guyana Red Cross, which has been supplying hygiene kits to affected residents, while the Ministries of health and agriculture have been visiting several of the more severely affected areas.
While acknowledging that there had not been a large outbreak of diseases or any food shortages, the assessment had noted several other areas of concern, including the high percentage of flooded latrines, the breakages and contamination of piped water affecting the provision of potable water, and the widespread loss of property by farmers. It estimated that the livelihoods of several farms have already been substantially affected.
The assessment had also highlighted the inability of the CDC to adequately deal with the flood situation. The CDC has been mandated by the government to coordinate the collection of data and the response, but although willing it has very limited resources to accomplish this mandate, according to Oxfam.
However, Greenidge, who is the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, had stated that the assessment sought to discount the efforts of the agencies which have been working assiduously to bring relief to affected communities and declared that Oxfam is not fully in touch with the situation on the ground.
In a statement last night, GINA reported Dr Luncheon as questioning the sincerity and commitment of Oxfam to coordination at the level of the recently operationalized National Emergency Operating Centre (NEOC) of the Civil Defence Commis-sion.
Dr. Luncheon disclosed that within the last two weeks, state and non-state actors have met and have planned activities on sharing information, particularly on assessments of flood affected areas.
“Immediately prior to its preparation of the assessment, Oxfam and other involved parties met at the NEOC and there Oxfam deliberately neglected to use the opportunity to advise other participants of their assessment and its intended use”, GINA said.
That particular meeting, Dr Luncheon said was well attended and saw the sharing of activities including assessments by the various bodies involved in Disaster Responses.
Dr Luncheon said that, Oxfam thus was, and remains in possession of information that conflicts with aspects of their publicised assessment and that Oxfam’s motive is now suspect.
“Oxfam may distance itself from the publication of the report but not its authorship, and therein lies the concern of the Government of Guyana”, Dr Luncheon said.
Yesterday Oxfam stated that the report was not intended to provide a comprehensive oversight of all interventions taking place in Guyana at the moment but to give a quick overview for organisations that are little aware of the situation in Guyana. “For example the report did not include full information on the activities carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture and the NDIA (National Drainage and Irrigation Authority) like the drainage activities and the veterinary services offered”, the release said.
It asserted that a more comprehensive report is being prepared by the CDC with the support of Oxfam and will include those interventions made by Ministries and the NDIA. The release noted that Oxfam, which has been working in Guyana for a number of years with the support of various donor organizations, set up a large scale response programme to the flooding in 2005/6 and currently is running a program on disaster preparedness in communities in Region Four.
“Oxfam appreciates its cooperation with the CDC and hopes to continue its collaboration with the CDC and the different Guyanese government agencies to further strengthen data collection so that interventions can be targeted to the most affected people”, the release quoted Joost van de Lest, Oxfam spokesperson in Guyana as saying.