Venezuelan refugees in Lethem need help, living in squalor

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During a visit to Lethem over the weekend, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and former Government Minister Irfaan Ali, came into contact with Venezuelans who were seeking refuge in Guyana.

In a social media post, Ali said several children were among approximately 25 persons “living without any shelter in an open land, with no food, water or sanitary facilities.”

Opposition MP Irfaan Ali interacting with some of the Venezuelan refugees

“ It is a sad situation, but with 25 already finding their way here, we can never be sure if any, or how much more, will also cross the border seeking shelter, food and help,” he explained.

The MP appealed to Government to urgently look into the matter, as the people of Lethem were also very concerned and the health implications could, moreover, be serious. He said there is urgent need for a national policy position on this matter, and humanitarian intervention from the state.

“I urge us as Guyanese to help if we can. It is heart-wrenching to see this level of suffering,” he expressed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge had given full assurance that Guyana would continue to assist the people of Venezuela who continue to flee their country to escape its economic, social and political crises.

The Foreign Affairs Minister noted that the Venezuelan Government had not approached Guyana for help with its current internal crisis. However, he said Guyana stands ready to assist in spite of the difficulties that the two countries have experienced in regard to the border controversy.

Guyana is already providing medical assistance to many Venezuelans. It has been reported that Venezuelan nationals are crossing into Guyana, especially at Region One, to seek medical treatment for malaria.

At least 368 cases of malaria were, in May 2017, reported to national health authorities in Region One, but Venezuelans seeking treatment were treated, according to Government.

Considering this to be part of Guyana’s international humanitarian contribution, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, related that instructions were given to the Public Health Ministry to assist all comers. This assistance encompassed both Venezuelans and Guyanese who are living in the Spanish-speaking country.

Hyperinflation, scarcities of basic food and medicine, and skyrocketing violence are gripping Venezuela, prompting a swelling exodus of its citizens.

The International Organization for Migration says nearly one million Venezuelans have left the country over the past two years. Many head to Brazil, Colombia and Panama, and often beyond.

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