Gov’t COVID-19 support to Amerindians cuts across sectors

– US$200,000 French donation complements efforts

On its assumption to office in August, the PPP/C Government embarked on a robust campaign to support Amerindian communities countrywide as the nation grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July and August 2020, three regions with a majority Indigenous population were said to be severely affected by the pandemic.

Due to the remoteness of most villages, and travel and certain job restrictions imposed to reduce transmission, the Government provided food hampers to help sustain households.

On August 10, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Hon. Pauline Sukhai, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Hon. Nigel Dharamlall and a team from the Civil Defence Commission distributed 600 relief hampers to households in Kurukubaru, Itabac and Kanapang, North Pakaraima, Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight).

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Hon. Pauline Sukhai; Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Hon. Nigel Dharamlall; Director General – Civil Defence Commission, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig and Major Loring Benons hand over supplies to Paramakatoi residents

In September, over 8,000 Barima-Waini (Region One) residents and 195 residents in Nappi, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) were among the first to receive the $25,000 per household COVID-19 relief cash grant announced by President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali. The grant was among several relief measures announced in the Emergency Budget 2020.

The Education Ministry has also distributed printed learning material to students who may not have internet access, as part of a comprehensive programme to minimise learning losses during the pandemic. Students in Mabaruma, Yarakita and Moruca, Region One were among the first to benefit.

The Amerindian Affairs Ministry is also collaborating with the Health Ministry to ensure adequate medical supplies are available in villages. Agricultural tools will also be provided to farmers to boost food security as several farming communities had lost produce due to flooding.

Additionally, $800 million was allocated to the Amerindian Development Fund for the sustainable development of Indigenous communities.

These measures will be complemented by a US$200,000 donation from France to the Amazon Emergency Fund, in response to a request for emergency aid to support indigenous peoples in the Amazon.

Minister of Housing and Water, Hon Collin Croal presents a $25,000 COVID-19 relief cash grant to Khan Hill resident Mr. Romel Santiago

A press release from the French Embassy in Suriname and Guyana said on Thursday US$ 2 million (1.8 million euros) was donated to the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA). COICA divided the amount among eight states covered by the Amazonian Forest, including Guyana.

COICA focuses its efforts on the promotion, protection and security of indigenous peoples and territories through the defence of their ways of life, principles, social, spiritual and cultural values.

When COVID-19 hit Guyana, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) raised concerns about indigenous communities that were isolated and experience limited access to health care services, the Embassy said.  

COICA selected the APA to coordinate and implement the French financial assistance which is intended to benefit 88 indigenous communities in Guyana. The immediate   objectives   are   to   provide humanitarian support, food relief, medication, sanitisation supplies and to reinforce awareness on preventing the spread of the virus. 

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