Severe flooding in early May 2006 affected up to 20,000 people in Suriname and left large areas of the country submerged. The country’s interior, which is populated by small villages of indigenous and Maroon peoples (descendants of West African slaves), was most affected by the torrential rains. At its peak, flooding affected as much as 30,000 square km, including 157 villages. Thousands were forced to abandon their homes and their livelihoods.
Suriname’s National Coordination Center for Disaster Response coordinated the relief efforts, providing technical assistance in communications, information technology, logistical support and finance and administration. A crisis center was set up and experts were mobilized to assist in health needs assessment and resource mobilization. The center also helped local health authorities take action to reduce and control flood-associated health risks, including malaria and diarrhea. An international expert in sanitary engineering carried out an initial assessment and made recommendations for improvements. Water tanks and water purification tablets were delivered to assure an adequate supply of clean drinking water in the affected areas and vaccines and cold chain supplies were procured to prevent outbreaks of typhoid and hepatitis. At the request of Surinamese authorities, the LSS/SUMA (a computerized humanitarian supply management system) was deployed and a team of SUMA experts trained local staff to use the system.
Suriname’s response to the floods was largely successful, thanks to prior preparedness efforts, including the formulation of a National Disaster Plan. Also helpful were the involvement of a large network of nongovernmental organizations, many of them active in the country’s interior, and the coordination between national and international groups.