A Water-Boatful of Hope for Water-less Communities in Guyana
R4V Situation Report, February (Caribbean), 01 Mar 2021
Harsher dry seasons are leaving communities in Guyana’s region one – along the northern border with Venezuela - without potable water. Saline wells and water sources resemble the impact of drought at villages like Imbetero, Smith Creek, and Morawhanna. Thousands of Amerindian villagers and their recently established guests – Warao Venezuelan refugees and migrants – have been forced to deplete their resources to find fresh water. They must cross mangler-filled rivers towards Cariabo, a village approximately 100 kilometers away, and not accessible via road, thus requiring water boats.
"Safe sources of water are not always available, and I barely make a living to feed my family,” said one Venezuelan resident. “I am unable to buy clean water in the dry season.” Local villagers mirrored the same concern, adding to the equation heightened risks of exposure to water-borne diseases and the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.
For years, people living in these remote and sparsely populated areas have suffered from limited fresh water supplies during the dry season. Until a new project by an R4V Platform Partner became the beacon of hope for at least five communities in late 2020. A 19 by five feet boat began to sail across large rivers to gather and deliver purified and fresh water.
At minimal cost and workforce, the Villagepump had provided safe-drinking water to over 2,200 people at the end of 2020. By early 2021, the boat was delivering regular supplies and was expanded to incorporate a water trestle and offloading landing to facilitate distribution.
“Getting clean water was a pipe dream, but now, the dream has become real,” mentioned one of the villagers. “We finally will have a constant supply of clean water reaching every one of us in the dry season.”
The Villagepump will be handed over to the Guyana Water Incorporation (GWI), the national provider of water and sanitation services in the country, which will make the deliveries in coordination with village leaders during the dry season. The GWI will assume the costs to maintain, fuel and operate the boat to continue delivering this vital service to locals and Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
Guyana is estimated to host around 30,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants who sought access to basic services and safety in the neighboring country. Many indigenous Warao fleeing from Venezuela found a safe haven in Region one, where locals have welcomed them despite the many challenges.
Alongside Guyanese national institutions, R4V partners work to support Venezuelan refugees and migrants and their host communities across the country. Apart from tackling protection and documentation issues, R4V Platform Partners make efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and water-borne diseases like cholera by rehabilitating or installing water, sanitation and hygiene systems.
In addition, partners can now ensure the delivery of clean water to the people across the hinterland areas of Guyana. As climate change continues to increase temperatures worldwide, Venezuelans and their host communities in Guyana will no longer have to choose between food and water.