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UN Refugee agency, Guyana govt dispatch relief, improved sanitation to malnourished, sickened Venezuelan migrants

Last Updated on Monday, 22 November 2021, 22:57 by Denis Chabrol

A quantity of hampers being distributed to migrant Venezuelans (Office of the President picture)

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Guyana government are rushing food and medical care to Anabisi where more about 250 Warraus, including many malnourished children, from neighbouring Venezuela are squatting.

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony said after doctors checked more than  25 children and 42 adults on Saturday, diagnosed and treated many of them for skin rash and diarrheal diseases, they were equipped with jerrycans and educated about the safe disposal of domestic waste and faeces.

Dr. Anthony indicated that the health crisis facing the residents at Anabisi has been compounded by the fact that they are drinking the same water from the Port Kaituma River in which they have been disposing waste. “What we found generally in the camp is that it’s generally unhygienic because you have a lot of people living together… Because of the same unhygienic conditions, they are using the same water from the river and they are using the river to wash and do other things there so the water is not of good quality,” said Dr. Anthony who is also a medical doctor and public health specialist.

The Health Minister said the residents at Anabisi were advised by an environmental health expert about how they need to dispose of their waste and to identify a location to build toilets instead of  defecating in the “same water that they are using to drink.” In addition to the treatment for diarrhea, skin rashes and upper respiratory tract infections, Dr. Anthony said the residents at Anabisi have been provided with jerrycans, equipped with filters, to allow them to purify the water and prevent some of the diarrhea.

With a number of the adults having been afflicted by malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, he said 50 hammock nets have been provided.

The Health Minister confirmed initial reports by the non-governmental organisation, Blossom Inc; that last week found and reported to several government agencies that a number of starved children had been seen at Anabisi. He described them as being “chronically malnourished.” A number of them has been taken to the Port Kaituma Hospital and once has been flown to Georgetown for advanced treatment.

Dr. Anthony said government has since set up its own reporting structure. “We have made an arrangement with  few a few persons in the community who would act as liaison with the regional officials and with the Port Kaituma Hospital so once that is done I think whatever issues they are having in the community can be directly communicated  with the health authorities who will be able to take the relevant measures,” he said.

The UNHCR, for its part, said it has been dispatching assistance to Anabisi residents, even as it welcomed government’s response and would continue to provide much needed support. “And while support has been provided – including by organizations like UNHCR and its partner Blossom Ink – it remains insufficient, and much more needs to be done. UNHCR is grateful for the support the government is mobilizing to help refugees and migrants. UNHCR continues to offer support and remains committed to complementing government efforts to address the needs of refugees and migrants in Guyana,” the UN Refugee agency said. The agency said that up to Sunday it deployed more assistance, including food kits and non food items to deliver to Anabisi community from its warehouse. UNHCR said it was also providing counselling, interpretation and accompanying visits to government services including for vaccinations against COVID.

While government estimates that there are 198 persons from 25 families living at Anabisi, UNHCR puts that figure at more than 250 of which more than half are children. The agency said the numbers of persons arriving to places like Anabisi, Canal Bank and remote areas where access is very difficult “keep growing, so do their needs”.  ‘During recent visits, these communities have mentioned having left their country with only the clothes on their backs, setting off in canoes without anything else,” the agency said.

According to the refugee agency, over the past two years it has been distributing humanitarian aid to refugees, migrants and members of the host communities in various regions, including items to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. “UNHCR has a small presence in region one, where we have conducted needs assessments within some of the communities.”

UNHCR estimates that there are now 4,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees who are living in Region One (Barima-Waini)