APA calls for more COVID-19 testing in Indigenous communities
The Amerindian People’s Association (APA) has been strident in their efforts to provide support to indigenous communities affected by COVID-19 but it wants the Ministry of Public Health to ramp up testing in these communities. Some $29.5M has been spent so far to provide food and medical supplies to the communities.
Indigenous communities in Regions 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9 have welcomed the support from the Association during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Over the last few weeks, representatives for the Association have been travelling to communities despite the bad weather and terrain to distribute medical and food supplies to these communities.
Executive Director Jean La Rose said letters were written to National COVID-19 Task Force for support during this time but they have so far gotten no response. As such the Association redirected $29.5M from other projects to assist the communities.
“I cannot over stress the need, need in terms of PPEs, in terms of sanitization, in terms of beds, in terms of quarantine facilities and increased human resources.
“Santa Rosa started out with a very low number of doctors and other medical personnel, now the number has increased,” La Rose said.
The Association in its COVID-19 response is also targeting farmers and fishermen. Many persons in these communities have had to reduce or step down from farming. This is causing families to suffer especially cassava farmers, with cassava being staple food and economic benefit.
“The economy definitely will suffer and that is an area that needs a lot of improving on, the agricultural system for the indigenous communities,” La Rose said.
She further said that facilities for long term storage are also needed in these communities. A lot of the indigenous communities do not have access to electricity.
Additionally, La Rose reiterated the Association’s call for mining to cease as an essential service during this time. Other Organisations have called for mining to stop as they believe miners pose a threat to residents in mining communities. Mining activities were ceased in Regions 1 and 7 after a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Miners are not necessarily people from the village themselves and those could have all serious impacts on the communities,” La Rose said.
The Association at this time has not arrived at a position to identify the full impact on indigenous communities but noted that immediately, the education and health sectors are most affected.
“Immediately the impact would be on health of course and the ability of the various communities to deal with the health issues confronting them.
“We have seen the case where all of the communities have been unprepared to face a situation like this.
“Many of them had no PPEs to start with, sanitization supplies and basic over the counter medication ran out quickly,” La Rose said.
It was highlighted that the business community has been tremendous in also providing the Association with discounts on food supplies and transportation cost for distribution.
The Executive Director added that mental health must be looked at with some form of urgency during this time.
“Many of the families in Santa Rosa I know who were in isolation – husbands, wives, children, teachers- all have some story to tell about being mentally traumatized and I think that aspect of COVID-19 is not being looked at.”
The Association further pleaded that the emergency measures and curfew not be lifted as soon as there are no new reports of COVID-19.
In addition to the distribution of food and medical supplies, the Association has also been campaigning on the dangerous effects of COVID-19 in the communities.
However, some residents are still challenging the efforts and claiming that the virus does not exist.