A sustainable supply of food for Venezuelan immigrants who are now being accommodated in Region One continues to be a problem facing the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), Regional Chairman Brentnol Ashley says.
Ashley, in a telephone interview, yesterday told Stabroek News that not only is the food supply for the immigrants low, but that more Venezuelans have arrived, putting even more of a strain on the resources available.
He explained that the villages of Whitewater, Kamwatta and Khan’s Hill have in some cases recorded as many as 30 new immigrants entering the village seeking refuge.
“Thirty new immigrants have been recorded in Whitewater, bringing the total to 291 persons, while Kamwatta now has 68, eight of which only recently arrived and in Khan’s Hill the number now stands at 101,” Ashley said.
Stabroek News understands that health screening services are ongoing and have been extended for another month, with the cost being split between the Ministry of Public Health and the Regional Democratic Council.
Commenting on the need for additional food supplies, the Regional Chairman noted that the RDC is still considering how to deal with this specific issue. “I would have learnt over the last few days that there is no food supply for these persons at these places and the RDC is contemplating right now what would be the next move because we do not have the resources to feed the total number of persons we have here… The food supply that we would have had here are now depleted and CDC [Civil Defence Commission] would have been here on Friday, the 10th , along with Minister [Winston] Felix and they only brought 12 food hampers for the new persons who would have been at Khan’s,” he explained. “I know the Ministry of Citizenship and the government would have been talking about the land that would have been identified but right now our main challenge is food supply and clothing for these persons, especially in the three communities…the Toshaos would have sent information to my office over the last five to eight days that they are in dire need of food supplies and clothing. Some people are trying to assist by giving a little from what they have but that cannot continue to happen. The RDC, too, would have tried to assist but of course we work with budgetary allocations and also we have to give justifications for why we are spending in this, area so we are trying our best to assist as best as practicable,” Ashley added.
However, when asked about the specifics relating to the establishment of the planned homestead for the immigrants, the land for which is said to be located between Mabaruma Compound and Silver Hill, the Regional Chairman said, “All we were told when Minister Felix visited here and he would have had a discussion with us is that government is considering building facilities to accommodate them but there [was] no in-depth discussion on what is going to be built for the people on the plot of land.”
At the beginning of July, 100 Venezuelan immigrants of Warrau descent had arrived in the Mabaruma sub-district, prompting Ashley, using his personal Facebook page, to solicit donations on behalf of the Regional Disaster Relief Committee for the “urgent assistance” to provide clothing, food and other supplies for the Venezuelans.
Ashley told Stabroek News that the Venezuelans, who are mostly of the Warrau nation, would have previously occupied land along the Orinoco and Amacuro rivers and travelled to Guyana to escape the harsh economic situation facing Venezuela.
Subsequent to this, a multi-agency meeting, which included representatives from Guyana Police Force, the ministries of Communities, Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Social Protection, Public Health, Citizenship, and the CDC, was convened to discuss the way forward in handling the situation. Last Wednesday, it was announced that the Ministry of Citizenship and the Mayor and Town Council of Mabaruma identified a plot of land for the establishment of a homestead settlement area or humanitarian centre for the registered Venezuelans who are occupying areas in the region.
According to a release from the Ministry of the Presidency, the announcement was made at the conclusion of the fifth multi- agency coordinating committee meeting held last Monday at the Ministry of Citizenship.
The minister was reported in the release as saying that the resettlement area, which will allow the Venezuelans to be self-reliant, is privately owned and government will now have to initiate efforts to determine what arrangements can be put in place to acquire the land for the establishment of the centre.