Government addressing Poverty among Amerindians Health, Education, economic activities, major targets
Guyana Chronicle
July 6, 2003

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THE Government has been very instrumental in providing an improved level of social services to Amerindian communities countrywide.

This is aimed at reducing the level of poverty of Guyana’s indigenous peoples and making their communities more sustainable.

Several measures have been put in place to achieve the level of development that exists in these communities.

One of these is the provision of health centres in almost every Amerindian community. While health centres are necessary in the communities to avoid the disparity between far-flung communities and District or Central Hospitals, qualified personnel are also necessary to man these facilities.

Government has been training local persons as Community Health Workers (CHWs) to serve their indigenous communities. Information from the Ministry of Health indicates that at present there are more than 178 CHWs in hinterland Amerindian communities. In 2002, an additional 15 were trained from Region Seven alone. Most of these persons are from the local communities, some of which are among the remotest villages of the country.

Villages had suffered significantly from the lack of access to proper health care services. Many residents had to walk for miles and sometimes days to access these essential services.

Despite, the rough terrain in which some of these communities are located, Government has been able to bridge the gap by facilitating these vital institutions.

The Indigenous population is one of the fastest growing groups in the country and the Ministry of Health is taking additional steps to ensure that there are local personnel to take care of infants and pregnant mothers.

Many of the CHWs undergo further training that enables them to perform midwifery functions. Others receive further training to qualify in microscopy so that they are able to detect and treat persons with malaria, one of the prevalent diseases in remote hinterland communities.

Soon, two CHWs from communities in Region One would be undergoing special training in immunisation, after which they would return to their communities and ensure that children are properly immunised.

The immunisation record for children below one year between 1990 and 2001 was nearly 90 per cent, while pregnant mothers’ immunisation for tetanus during the same period stood at 72.5 per cent. Efforts are ongoing to reach a higher percentage mark. Guyana’s immunisation programme is ranked fourth in the world in terms of efficiency.

Similar efforts have been ongoing in other sectors to improve the standard of living for Amerindians. In Education, for example, programmes are in place to provide equal educational opportunities to all Guyanese students, including Amerindians.

Many of these students have educational opportunities that never existed before. The Government continues to ensure that a significant number of hinterland students are offered local and international scholarships to further their studies.

Advanced education has been boosted by more secondary schools being built.

This system now allows young people to build on their primary foundation as well as to venture into technical and vocational areas. A recent analysis of the performance of hinterland students at the CXC exams indicates that these students are performing well in Science and History, especially.

This has been the pattern of development in Amerindian communities over the past few years, and Government, in its national development drive, continues to focus on hinterland communities.

These efforts are evident also in the many programmes and projects that are currently on stream to make Amerindian communities more sustainable and economically viable. Several communities in the Barima area are involved in cultivating ‘manicole’ heart of palm cabbage. These plants would be marketed to the Amazon Caribbean Guyana Limited (AMCAR) Company, which packages and exports the produce to overseas markets.

The company also employs a significant number of Indigenous persons from the Region, who are able to contribute to the economic and social enhancement of their families and communities.

A similar project is on stream in Mainstay/Whyaka, where farmers who have at least two large crops of pineapples per year are now assured of market at the local pineapple factory. The factory also employs local persons for its operations which include processing pineapple products for the local and overseas markets.

In several of the communities in Regions Eight and Nine, women are involved in small-scale sewing enterprises which assist in generating additional incomes for their homes. Most of the sewing machines were donated by Government or non-governmental organisations to get women involved in economic activities.

In Orealla (Region Six), women are employed as overseers at a local fruit cheese factory. This enterprise too, is income-generating and employs several local persons.

Meanwhile, several of the communities in the Rupununi District are constantly searching for markets for their local naturally-grown cashew nut products. The New Guyana Marketing Corporation (NGMC) plays a major role in marketing this product.

The St. Ignatius Helping Hand Women’s group also packages and sells the cashew nuts, which they produce. Several communities are also venturing into peanut production as well.

These small-scale activities may not seem very significant, but they contribute to generating income for households, which ultimately, contributes to an improved standard of living.

Craft is also another area from which Amerindian communities source income.

These have proved to be very viable. Government has contributed to the establishment of craft centres in almost every Amerindian community.