Hundreds of persons from Venezuela have sought treatment at Region One health facilities for malaria in recent weeks, according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon.
The treatment offered to those from across the border comes amid a measles outbreak in Venezuela that would require local health authorities to take extra precautions. With a high vaccination rate, Guyana has not had a measles problem. However, with its ongoing political crisis, a severe deterioration has been reported at Venezuelan medical facilities and in services, such as vaccination.
Harmon on Thursday said that Guyana’s assistance to the ill persons from Venezuela is part of “our international humanitarian efforts.”
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, Harmon stated that during the Cabinet meeting which was held on Tuesday, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence informed that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported an outbreak of measles in Venezuela.
He said that member states were alerted to the risks of outbreaks occurring from “imported” measles cases and Guyana was advised to ensure a high level of surveillance and adopt adequate vaccination measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the WHO, measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.
The disease, the organization said, remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Approximately 134,200 people died from measles in 2015 – mostly children under the age of 5.
Harmon said that the last report he had was that there were at least 368 persons from Venezuela treated here in Guyana. The total figure is said to be 1,000 and it includes Guyanese living in Venezuela.
“We feel that this (administering treatment to the Venezuelans) is part of our international humanitarian efforts and Cabinet advised the Minister of Health to ensure that assistance is provided to all those persons, whether Venezuelans or Guyanese, living in Venezuela who report to the medical facility for help as this is a humanitarian issue which we are very happy to be a part of,” he added.