Guyana lauded for offering Covid-19 vaccines to migrants

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Guyana was on Tuesday lauded for opening up its Covid-19 immunization initiative to migrants.

The acute strain brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has put an even greater disadvantage on refugees around the world, but this must not limit them from access to heath care services or importantly, vaccines. 

On the occasion of World Refugee Day organised by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) on Tuesday, acting Head of Office at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Suenanica de Rozario pointed out that displaced people should be able to acquire basic services and especially healthcare in the times of a pandemic. 

She lauded Guyana for opening its vaccination campaign to migrants, in efforts to ensure that they are immunized. 

“COVID-19 has flooded with a strain on health care, tools, and our communities. We have all had to do our part to keep each other safe and despite the challenges, refugees and displaced people have stepped up. Given the chance, refugees will continue to contribute to a stronger, safer, and more vibrant world…Everyone forced to flee must have access to health services, medication, and vaccines. Access to health care and medical support saves lives. 

“We thank the Government of Guyana for the inclusive approach in providing equal access to all to obtain the COVID-19 vaccination and together we work, and we work to ensure better access to services and education for all,” Rosario noted. 

In the UNHCR’s recently released Global Trends report, it shows that one in 95 individuals are forcibly displaced. When this happens, many struggle to access services for their children. Now, COVID-19 has also exacerbated these circumstances. 

“COVID-19 has interrupted education for children around the world and made remote classrooms necessary. However, many refugees are unable to afford internet or phone for children to study remotely. We must support them. Those who left school during the pandemic are at risk of never returning. Some were forced into early marriage or work to support their families. And we believe that or family should ever have to choose between the best interests of the children, or putting food on the table.” 

She said the agency is planning to continue its work, offering registration, education, child protection, prevention of gender-based violence and livelihood enhancement resources to help persons thrive in their host communities.

Statistics show that 80 million people displaced globally, while one per cent of the world’s entire populations are no longer able to reside in their homes and their communities. Neighboring Venezuela has become the second largest displacement event in the world, with a staggering 4.6 million people leaving their home country due to a lack of security, food and basic rights. 

HIAS Country Director, Alex Theran said in Guyana, the organization has provided support for the most vulnerable, Venezuelans, and other nationalities. 

“Since 2020, HIAS Guyana has supported over 5000 people, and we are committed to being here as long as the community needs what we offer…Refugees are resilient, some can succeed on their own. Some need a little help. But there’s more intensive assistance. All refugees were given access to rights and opportunities to live, work and learn and safety and freedom can rebuild their lives, and thrive.” 

US support 

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Ann Lynch committed her Government’s continued efforts to assist migrants, with the injection of significant sums into various programmes.

“State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration is the lead us agency mandated to respond to refugee and migration crises in close coordination with other US agencies, including US-AID. In 2020, the United States provided nearly $5 million for the Venezuelan response in Guyana, including $435,000 specifically earmarked to respond to COVID-19. The United States currently supports UNHCR IOM, UNICEF, the Pan American Development Foundation, and HIAS and pious to implement activities in Guyana to respond to the protection needs of vulnerable Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers,” the diplomat noted. 

Funding in Guyana includes ensuring access to basic needs, including food, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and psychosocial services, improving access to inclusive and quality education services, supporting access to formal livelihood opportunities through vocational education and community-based initiatives.