APA redirects over $29M to fight COVID-19; criticizes lack of support from Gov’t

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By Bibi Khatoon

With little help from the Government, the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) has redirected over $29M from its land titling and other projects to help indigenous residents fight the COVID-19 pandemic while providing for their families.

Executive member of the APA Jean LaRose during a recent interview with the News Room criticized the Government for its lacklustre posture in assisting residents.

She lamented the lack of adequate food supplies to communities which are impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions, insufficient communication and the absence of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at health centres.

With permission from its donors, the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has taken up the challenge to fill the gap and provide for indigenous communities in Regions One, Two, Six, Seven, Eight and Nine.

An indigenous community in Region One –Santa Rosa – has become the COVID-19 hotspot over the past month with over 80 confirmed cases.

The residents were asked to adhere to the restriction of movement but were not given food hampers or any necessities to be able to do so.

“Most of the communities need support in terms of food supplies across the board, basic things like sugar and rice and so because of the lockdown and limitations because many of our people go hunting for days and they cannot do so,” LaRose noted.

Items being prepared by the APA for distribution [Photo: APA]
Businessmen and women in these communities have also been impacted as travel in and out of the Regions to purchase supplies have also been affected.

The APA stepped in and provided 300 hampers to those residents using money under the Sweden based International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, the Nia Tero foundation, the Amazon Emergency Fund set up to assist Indigenous persons affected by COVID and donations from Guyanese.

The funding under the Tenure Facility was initially slated for land titling and demarcation in Indigenous communities which has now been stalled due to the pandemic.

“We received permission to allocate funds out of that project toward COVID relief,” LaRose said.

Village leaders in the Moruca sub-district are also faced with a challenge when it comes to convincing residents of the seriousness of the deadly disease.

In this regard, the APA Executive also criticized the Government for ineffective public awareness which has led to some residents not believing the disease exists.

“It is very lacking in some of the communities, you don’t have awareness or information. Whatever may be put out as a video on Facebook, it is very limited in its reach to the communities, whatever may be put out on radio is still very limited,” she said.

The APA assisted communities with posters to educate residents on COVID-19

LaRose added that “in terms of really understanding what is COVID, what are the implications of COVID, how can you take preventive measures, what is a lockdown, what is curfew, what is social distancing, there are a lot of people who don’t understand that and even things like someone who shows symptoms versus an asymptomatic person like why is someone tested positive but they looking strong so the awareness in COVID related is still lacking in many many communities.”

In some instances, the APA was forced to provide Personal Protective Equipment to communities in Regions Two, Seven and Eight as it was found that the Government focused on the Regional Hospitals while neglecting the health centres.

The APA donated masks, gowns, sanitizers and infrared thermometers to communities upon requests.

“We found that most of the health centres did not have any PPE at all and I think the Ministry was more focused on the larger district hospital so like on the Essequibo Coast, they would have focused on the Suddie Hospital and not the village health Centers so our focus took into account requests made by the village health centre for gowns and gloves [and other items],” she explained.

The APA executive pointed out that “in some communities, you don’t have a district hospital readily available so the first health facility people may approach may be a health centre or a health outpost so, in terms of basic provision of PPE, those people will need it.”

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