Indigenous leaders complain about increase in diseases, theft in communities

Venezuelan migrants

By Leah Hernandez

As the number of Venezuelan migrants continuously increases, with some 5123 documented in Guyana, Indigenous leaders from Amerindian communities are calling for stricter security in border communities as the influx of migrants has resulted in an increase in health and security issues in their villages.

APA President Mario Hastings

Some of the alarming issues have been identified as the prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and increase in criminal activities and were raised at Monday’s commencement of the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) 10th Annual General Assembly.
These concerns were voiced by APA’s unit representatives particularly for Arau and Kaikan Villages, in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), who pleaded for the situation to be taken under control immediately by the Government.
APA’s representative in Arau Village, Devroy Thomas, related to Guyana Times that while the village leaders understand the need to render support, the issue has become very complicated, since the migrants were bringing with them bad practices which could corrupt the communities.
“Well, the situation is very complicated now because of the influx of the migrants into our village’s areas … in the mines that is around Arau Village. There are hundreds of them, but there’s no one to try to help them … it has been reported by the community health workers that there is spread of STDs and some of the youths in the village have been affected and there are no drugs available … the crime rate is high and alarming and is making the villagers afraid,” he explained.
Residents of Kaikan Village are experiencing similar problems, since many have complained about their homes being broken into and mainly clothing being stolen.
They are growing worried about their lifestyle being negatively impacted by the migrants, especially if they are left unsupervised.

A section of the gathering at the opening ceremony of the Amerindian Peoples Association 10th General Assembly

Thus, desperate calls are being made to the Government of Guyana to have greater and effective measures in place to curb these issues being faced by Indigenous people and communities.
Meanwhile, this year’s 10th General Assembly event is being held at Camp Kuyuka, along the Linden-Soesdyke Highway and will conclude on Wednesday. To commence the event, cultural items were showcased in the form of songs, dances, and Indigenous languages.
APA President Mario Hastings, in opening remarks, underscored the organisation’s support for the promotion of transparency and accountability, adding that the APA has undertaken new initiatives which include the origination of its Youth Media programme, revision of the Amerindian People’s Act, and its Sustainable Livelihood Programme.
According to Hastings, these programmes are geared towards support of village councils, as well as to resolve and publicise community-based issues Amerindian communities face, including water contamination and land disputes, which have so far been one of the greatest challenges.
“Some of the activities the organisation has been involved in are youth media, where we have youths making short videos highlighting problems or issues from the villages, and sustainable livelihood where persons were trained in proposal writing and book keepings … we have trained persons from different regions to work along with the village councils, because as an organisation we have seen that these were some issues coming from the villages and so they are there to give support,” he stated.
Nevertheless, Hastings reassured attendees that the APA will continue advocating until these problems are resolved.
The event saw the attendance of APA executives, Toshaos and regional representatives, who organised the three-day activity to discuss the affairs of both the Indigenous communities and the nongovernmental organisation.