Oil Discovery in Guyana
The 2018 oil discovery in Guyana means this former British Colony can expect a massive increase in wealth by the early 2020s. The country found over three billion barrels worth of oil off its coast and it will likely positively impact its future economy. By 2020 Guyana will be a major petroleum producer. This may lead to a 300 percent increase in Guyana’s GDP by 2025.

For a country that heavily relies on agricultural, mining and lumber exports such as sugar, rice, bauxite, timber and gold, the oil revenue will heavily impact the Guyanese economy. As of now, Guyana’s agriculture industry experiences many ups and downs because of its vulnerability to floods. Between 1990 and 2014, floods were responsible for 93.6 percent for Guyana’s economic inactivity.

Currently, the oil project is still under production so it does not account for any percentage of the GDP. The oil and gas revenue, however, for the 2017 fiscal year is $2.8 billion. This accounts for only 14 percent of the Guyanese revenue generated by extractives.

As of 2017, 36 percent of Guyana’s population lived in poverty with unemployment rates almost reaching 12 percent. Education and trade learning are essential for the elevation of a country out of poverty. However, many are unable to continue their education after primary school. Youth from 15 to 24 make up 40 percent of the population, yet unemployment rates for them are 22 percent. Fortunately, with the recent oil discovery, Guyana’s oil industry has hired 10 more graduates of the University of Guyana in 2018 than it did in 2017. However, since the oil discovery, Guyana’s unemployment rates have remained around 11 to 12 percentage. As of 2019, oil and gas companies claimed 51 employees making up only 0.02 percent of the population.

What is the Resource Curse?

The resource curse refers to the idea that countries with a significant amount of their own natural resources experience little economic growth, development and more authoritarianism. The oil industry is unpredictable, and when governments tend to rely on it, citizens suffer. Several countries that were once in Guyana’s shoes, like Nigeria and Venezuela, experienced corruption and a contradicting lack of economic growth when their oil business began to boom. The influx of wealth that accompanies the discovery of oil, transparency, accountability and active oversight are important for avoiding the feared resource curse.

Venezuela, Nigeria and the Resource Curse

Venezuela’s oil reserves are larger than any other country’s. Since Venezuela’s focus on oil meant that it ignored other industries, however, poverty in Venezuela has reached devastating highs. Children have been suffering from malnutrition at alarming rates, and as of 2018 up to two million people have fled the country.

In Nigeria, the influx of oil came with a bevy of problems including theft of oil pipes, damage to nearby ecological systems, oil spills and abuse of the natural resource wealth. According to the World Bank, only one percent of the Nigerian population benefits from just 80 percent of the revenue brought in by the oil. The attention and support that Nigeria received for its oil industry also meant that the country neglected other industries like agriculture.

The EITI and NPPDG in Guyana

Upon the recent oil discovery in Guyana, the country has become apart of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the New Petroleum Producers Discussion Group (NPPDG).

The goal of the EITI is to ensure that a country is managing its natural resources in a way that benefits its citizens as much as possible. Some key standards of the EITI include informing the public, providing transparency within governments and companies dealing with the natural resources and holding those in power accountable.

As of 2019, the EITI has introduced new transparency requirements. One requirement impacting Guyana specifically is the contract transparency requirement. This states that by the year 2021, all participating countries must publish new oil, mining and gas contracts. Guyana has committed itself to the formulation of new contracts along with three other countries.

The purpose of the NPPDG is to help emerging oil producers make effective policies and decisions and remain proactive. Governments receive training sessions, mentorships and existing techniques via current successful oil-producing countries. Countries can provide one another with advice and support when facing novel challenges. In a summary of the most recent NPPDG meeting, consistency and politics were topics of discussion for Guyana. Because oil-production is a long-term project, keeping plans consistent and on track despite the occasional election of new leaders is a topic of concern for Guyana. This is mainly because prior to the discovery of the oil, Guyana began its Low Carbon Development Strategy. In this strategy, the country developed plans to fight climate change through sustainable development. According to the report, participants of the meeting are concerned that the recent oil discovery and subsequent oil production may not fit in with the Low Carbon Development Strategy.

Guyana’s New Sovereign Wealth Fund

Another proactive step taken by the Guyanese government since the oil discovery in Guyana includes the recent approval of the creation of a sovereign wealth fund. A sovereign wealth fund comprises of money from the country’s natural resources and a country uses it to boost its economy. With a sovereign wealth fund, Guyana has allowed the opportunity for other industries it relies on, such as sugar and gold, to benefit from the revenue that the oil will produce. Furthermore, since the oil industry is somewhat unpredictable, the sovereign wealth fund will allow the country to save up money in the event of hard times.

All in all, this oil discovery in Guyana could have an extremely positive impact on the Guyanese economy. Looking at other successful oil-producing countries for guidance, and learning from other country’s mistakes will allow Guyana to make the best decisions for its citizens.

– Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

Health Systems in GuyanaAccess to adequate health care is slowly improving throughout South America’s 14 countries, thanks to increased funding and awareness of current medical issues. However, the field is continuously evolving in attempts to adapt to current and future health-related endeavors. Often considered as part of the Caribbean region due to its coastal northern location, the country of Guyana has made significant strides in improving its health care system to meet modern standards. In December 2013, Guyana unveiled a new health initiative entitled “Health Vision 2020”, which was set to be a cornerstone of Guyanese health policy moving forward. Though significant strides have been made, many of the milestone goals laid out by the initiative were not met. Some still have yet to be achieved. Though there is much progress left to be made, health systems in Guyana are improving.

Health Vision 2020 and the Millennium Development Goals

At its initial reveal in late 2013, Health Vision 2020 set out to systematically improve the health systems in Guyana. In doing this, the initiative aimed to also create more jobs in the field and improve health literacy. The initiative aimed to meet these goals while also attempting to meet the standards set forth by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In line with the MDGs, Health Vision 2020 sought to improve many aspects of health in Guyana. For example, to increase life expectancy to over 70 years of age and to decrease maternal and infant mortality rates. Health Vision 2020 aimed to do this while also reducing incidence, prevalence and factors that contribute to both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Furthermore, the initiative hoped to achieve this all by 2015 (or make significant strides toward these targets by the set year).

Guyana aspired to achieve these goals through one central crux: communication and awareness. This would lead to the establishment of adequate health centers and the improvement of general health literacy. Despite this, education and information regarding these matters were only the first steps in improving health systems in Guyana.

The 2015 targets of Health Vision 2020 were not met, despite trends in a positive direction. For example, as of 2018, general life expectancy has improved to 68.5 years among both sexes. This was an improvement from 67 years in 2010. Another example is that maternal mortality remains high at 229 deaths per 100,000, while infant mortality has dropped to 20 deaths per 1,000.

Diagnosing the Problem

A possible explanation for why Guyana was not able to meet these 2015 targets may be centered around the geography of the nation. The population of the coastal nation is extremely spread out. This makes it difficult for the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other aid-related parties to reach every person. However, efforts have been made in improving the quality of life for all the people of Guyana. For example, approximately 98 percent of the population now has access to clean water. Additionally, 84 percent of the population has access to quality sanitation.

Furthermore, these goals may not have been met due to the allocation and availability of funds. As of 2018, only 5 percent of Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) was spent toward its health systems. In 2014, donor expenditure of donor funds dropped to just above 7 percent from 40.1 percent. A 2018 update on health systems in Guyana emphasized that this might be because the nation does not have proper strategies for channeling aid in from donors. This fluctuation in funding leads to instability and insecurity in the health care field.

Furthermore, the report “Country Cooperation Strategy 2016-2020” highlights international cooperation as an integral component to improving health care resources and systems in Guyana. The report emphasized that the nation lacks sufficient health workers and other human resources.

Moving Forward

Guyana is on the right track in improving the health and wellness of its people. Unfortunately, it currently lacks several of the resources to achieve its goals. These are vital resources ranging from consistent funding to a well-rounded workforce. Despite these deficiencies, Guyana has made significant strides toward the goals. The country has also been labeled a figurehead nation in addressing health systems of low- and middle-income countries. It has worked successfully with outside governments and organizations in the past to help curb the burden of disease. This partnership has also helped to spread awareness of health-related issues. Hopefully, these issues can be addressed in order to meet Health Vision 2020’s goals of providing adequate, long-lasting health systems in Guyana.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Guyana

Guyana, an English-speaking country situated on the northern coast of South America, has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. The country tallies about 29.2 suicides for every 100,000 deaths, a number surpassed only by Lithuania and Russia. This unsavory statistic can be an important indicator of a country’s relationship with mental health. The seven facts about mental health in Guyana show the variety of complex and interconnected factors that contribute to its high suicide rate.

7 Facts About Mental Health in Guyana

  1. Poverty in rural areas and alcohol abuse are major risk factors for poor mental health. While anybody can struggle with mental health, there are certain social patterns in Guyana that put some communities at greater risk for developing mental health issues like depression. Health workers have cited poverty in rural areas and the prevalence of alcohol abuse as possible factors that increase the risk of depression in Guyana.Rural poverty: About three-quarters of Guyana’s population lives in rural areas, both along the coast and in the interior. Of the 12 percent of people living in the rural interior, about 73.5 percent live in poverty and of the 60 percent of people living in rural communities along the coast, about 37 percent live in poverty. The poverty levels in these more remote communities are much higher than in urban areas, and they represent more dire situations as access to resources is more limited. About 70 percent of the country’s suicides take place in these rural areas.Alcohol abuse: Some health experts have suggested a link between alcohol abuse and poverty in rural regions of the country. An article by NPR cited Guyanese government psychologist Caitlin Vieira in saying, “In these rural communities, there is nothing to do but drink.” Alcohol abuse can have detrimental effects on mental health, especially if the consumer is already struggling. In the long-term, experts have suggested that dependence on alcohol can worsen mood disorders such as depression. In the short-term, excessive drinking lowers inhibitions and can result in impulsive suicide.
  2. There is a severe lack of trained mental health professionals. With very few healthcare professionals trained in mental health treatment and those who are trained working primarily in urban centers, Guyana’s most at-risk populations often cannot receive the care they need. Part of the reason there is so few people trained in this field is because Guyana has an extremely high emigration rate. With over 55 percent of the country’s citizens living abroad, there are typically not enough professionals in medicine generally to meet the population’s needs. Luckily, the government is mobilizing to address this issue. In 2015, Guyana pledged to a National Suicide Prevention Plan that aims to increase the number of trained mental healthcare workers. Over the past two years, about 120 medical doctors have received training for depression and suicide intervention and are now scattered across the country. The number of psychologists and psychiatrists in the country remains low, at around 27, but has increased from just seven in 2014.
  3. Access to treatment facilities is extremely limited. Along with the lack of healthcare professionals, access to adequate mental health treatment facilities in Guyana is very limited. There are only two inpatient rehabilitation facilities in the country, and only one allows women. While some people find it easier and more effective for trained healthcare workers to visit their communities, others benefit from and require the immersive atmosphere of inpatient care. More health workers are being trained, but presently there does not seem to be any plans to expand care and rehabilitation facilities.
  4. The stigma surrounding mental health stops many struggling citizens from seeking help. The stigma around mental health in Guyana is stubborn and pervasive. Especially in the rural communities where people are most at risk, talk spreads quickly and citizens avoid getting the help they need for fear of backlash from their neighbors. Part of the reason for this stigma involves the Mental Health Ordinance of 1930, which continues to serve as the legislative framework for mental health services. The document refers to people suffering from psychological disorders as “idiots” and “deranged,” language that establishes those seeking help for mental health issues as unwelcome outcasts. Some areas even attribute mental illness to witchcraft, further ostracizing those struggling. Fortunately, researchers at the University of Guyana are working to address the problem. To promote wellness, they plan to study and share “local practices for building community mental health resilience” among certain Guyanese neighborhoods. Because these stories and solutions are community-based and not focused on the individual, the study is expected to decrease the stigma around mental illness and promote collective acceptance.
  5. Fear of prosecution also acts as a deterrent for seeking help. Aside from stigma, fear of prosecution and mandatory enrollment in a treatment facility are other reasons why people do not get treated for mental illness. According to the NPR article, 85 percent of patients seeking treatment end up spending more than five years in psychiatric facilities with no legal protections outlining their right to leave or refuse treatment. People are scared that if they seek help, they will be sent away with no way to protest. Additionally, because suicide is illegal in Guyana, those considering taking their lives are sometimes fearful that a report will get them in legal trouble. The police operate the country’s suicide prevention hotline, a fact that intimidates many people, even though very few have been prosecuted. Many citizens suffer in silence for fear that there will be consequences if they seek help.
  6. East Indians have the highest suicide rate among ethnic groups in Guyana. According to the National Suicide Prevention Plan, East Indians made up about 80 percent of Guyana’s suicides between 2010 and 2013, even though East Indians make up just about 40 percent of the population. Some have considered the history of East Indians in Guyana an important indicator of why suicide rates are so high. When slavery was abolished in the 1800s, landowners enlisted indentured servants from India as the new form of cheap labor. Therefore, despite being the largest ethnic group, East Indians have always been associated with poverty and low status in Guyana.
  7. Progress is ongoing. In addition to the various aforementioned steps being taken to address mental health in Guyana, a non-profit organization called The Guyana Foundation has been instrumental in developing “sunrise centers” in communities with high suicide rates. These centers focus less on psychiatric treatment and more on community-based wellness programs to reshape suicide-prone areas from the ground up. Sunrise centers offer courses that teach valuable life skills, such as IT training, photography and music lessons, in order to increase economic opportunities and provide stress relief.

As a result of the efforts from non-profits and legislation like the National Suicide Prevention Plan, Guyana’s suicide rate has dropped from 44.2 percent in 2014 to just under 30 today. While it is clear that improvements are being made, the country still has a long way to go in holistically addressing mental health. An overhaul of the outdated legislative framework surrounding mental illness may be the next step towards improving mental health in Guyana.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Pixabay

 

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Guyana
Guyana, a nation located on the Northeastern shoulder of South America, has continually made efforts to improve its education system but the country’s social, political and economic problems have had a devastating effect on it. The lack of funding for education had lead to poor conditions in schools, but Guyana’s government has implemented the Education Sector Plan 2014-2018 in order to improve its education system at all levels. In the text below, 10 facts about girls’ education in Guyana are presented.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Guyana

  1. The gender disparity in education between Guyanese boys and girls continues to grow as they transition into higher grade levels. Girls are outperforming boys in numerous subjects and are more likely to stay in school while boys tend to discontinue. Primary school enrollment for girls was 83 percent, compared to the same figure for boys that was at 95 percent. Secondary school enrollment for girls is 100 percent while it is 96 percent for boys. Primary completion rates for girls is 97 percent and for boys- 98 percent. At the tertiary level, enrollment for girls is twice as high compared to boys.
  2. In 2013, girls in the coastal areas of Guyana scored 15 to 23 percentage points higher in Math and English than those in the hinterland areas of Guyana. These results are partly due to the higher percentage of poverty and lack of school resources in hinterland areas.
  3. The teaching profession is seen as the feminization of schooling because women dominate this field. In 2012, 70 percent of secondary education teachers were female and only 27 percent were male. This result is due to tight gender roles in Guyana as girls are seen as more nurturing, open-minded and cooperative. Boys tend to choose non-traditional subjects such as Science and Technology.
  4. The Ministry’s Labour Department is responsible for creating the National Training Project for Youth Empowerment, which is a 12-week technical and vocational education and training program that targets out-of-school-youth in Guyana. Compared to boys, there was a higher rate of girls that signed up for service occupations such as health services, home economics (623 girls, 8 boys) and IT/Clerical (183 girls, 30 boys).
  5. First Lady Sarah Granger and Minister of Telecommunications Cathy Hughes have implemented Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Guyana that encourages girls to pursue non-traditional careers. They believe that Information Communications Technology (ICT) will provide girls and women with essential skills that will “promote literacy, improve access to health care, and enable the exercise of legal rights and participation in government.” Girls in STEM are the future that will allow Guyana to succeed. Women are a part of present too, as 30 percent of Guyana’s Parliament are female. This percentage of women in Parliament is active since 2005.
  6. Guyana has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and it is one of two countries that are a part of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief. The knowledge about HIV prevention among young girls aged between 15 and 25 is about 50 percent. For young boys, the knowledge about HIV prevention is 40 percent. Knowledge about safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention increases with education level for both boys and girls. It is important to educate girls about prevention because girls are more likely to get HIV/AIDS to due biological, socio-cultural and economic reasons. Encouraging girls to stay in school is a way to ensure a better quality of life and an important factor in preventing HIV/AIDS.
  7. Teenage pregnancy between the ages of 15 and 19 affects 97 out of 1,000 girls in Guyana. The teenage pregnancy rate is the second highest in the Caribbean and South America. Young girls between the ages of 15 and 19 with higher literacy rates have lower adolescent birth rates. Girls who remain in school are less likely to become pregnant.
  8. The Education Sector Plan (ESP) of 2014-208 was created to provide a quality education for all of Guyana’s citizens. Its main objectives were eliminating illiteracy, strengthening tolerance and modernizing education. The ESP has made huge progress in regards to improving access to education at all levels, increasing the proportion of trained teachers and providing more access to interactive technology, computers and upgrading physical facilities in particular.
  9. After ESP 2014-2018, students improved 14 percentage points in English but did not improve in Mathematics. ESP is still trying to tackle this lack of progress. ESP was also able to professionally train 70 percent of teachers. It also provided and implemented numerous support programs, including School Health, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS, Health and Family Life Education as well as School Welfare Program.
  10. Too often, girls are not able to reveal their full potential in improving Guyana’s economy due to discriminatory social norms, incentives and legal institutions. Girls often tend to be overworked, underpaid and sexual harassed in the workplace. A major issue that hinders girls’ education and work is gender-based violence. The World Bank Report of 2017 revealed that only 53 percent of females aged 15-64 participated in Guyana’s labor force compared to 80 percent of males of the same age. This result is the reason why The National Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Violence was established.

Although most of these 10 facts about girls’ education in Guyana shed light on the need for improvement in education, progress is still being achieved. Plans and actions are being supported by the Guyanese government and numerous organizations that are willing to help. Education for both girls and boys is key to improving Guyana as a whole.

– Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

GuyanaIn April 2018, Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an international organization devoted to advancing childhood education, reaffirmed its commitment to improving education in Guyana with a $1.7 million grant. This grant intends to strengthen the Early Childhood Education Program, which strives to improve literacy and numeracy levels in several remote regions of the country. Backed by the GPE and The World Bank, this grant will also positively contribute to girls’ education in Guyana.

Literacy and Numeracy Results

The results of these efforts are notable in literacy and numeracy scores among nursery school students. The percentage of students attaining a level of “approaching mastery” or higher in emergent literacy assessments rose from 39.58 percent to 68.30 percent between 2016 and 2017. Similar gains occurred in emergent numeracy levels, in which the percentage of students achieving a level of “approaching mastery” or higher rose from 41.91 percent in 2016 to 77.03 percent in 2017. These gains indicate significant improvements in boys’ and girls’ education in Guyana.

A Gender Gap in Education

According to certain indicators, girls’ education in Guyana has grown stronger than boys’ education. In June, the University of Guyana hosted a symposium on the underperformance of boys in the Guyanese education system. During the symposium, Dr. Mairette Newman, representative of The Commonwealth of Learning, noted three key statistics, which indicate a widening gender gap in Guyanese education:

  1. Girls outperform boys in literacy tests, once they transition into higher grade levels.
  2. Boys are more likely to drop out of secondary school than their female counterparts. (In early education, the ratio of boys to girls is one to one. However, at the secondary school level, the ratio is two to one, in favor of girls).
  3. Boys are less likely to transition into tertiary education programs.

According to Dr. Newman, girls normally have an advantage, since teachers prefer “female” qualities in the classroom, such as the ability to work well in groups and be introspective. All of these factors contribute to girls outpacing boys in the Guyanese education system.

Gender Barriers

While the symposium touched on this gender inequality in education, it did not address how these inequalities and gendered expectations also affect girls’ education in Guyana or limit girls in society. Though growing numbers of Guyanese women succeed in school and participate actively in public life, significant gender-related barriers still exist.

The Guyana Empowered Peoples Action Network (GEPAN) explains that children take on specific gender roles early in life. While girls take on household tasks, society encourages boys to be independent, as future “providers.” These gender roles continue into adulthood and expose women to limitations and violence in Guyana. For example, in 2014, UNICEF reported that at least one-third of Guyanese women experience sexual violence. These barriers and violence make it difficult for women to reach their full social and economic potential.

Women’s Empowerment

Luckily, Guyana’s First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, has already begun to address these gender-related issues. Last month, she held a Girls’ Empowerment Workshop, designed to inspire and empower girls (ages 10-15), encouraged girls to pursue non-traditional career paths and fight through prejudices to achieve their goals. As the First Lady emphasized, education is the first step to empowerment for women, which will strengthen economic development. For the First Lady, women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Guyana are crucial to the future success of Guyana. This movement for women’s empowerment also goes beyond the First Lady’s initiatives.

In April 2018, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications launched a program for girls and women in Information and Communications Technology, a field dominated by males in Guyana. The program, Guyanese Girls Code, is a free, three-month course which teaches beginning coding and programming to girls (ages 11-14). Over forty girls enrolled in the initial class. According to Cathy Hughes, the Minister of Public Telecommunications, the classes strive to bring women into the ICT sector and give them opportunities to gain the education they’ll need to succeed. Hughes hopes that bringing girls into the ICT sector will offer new perspectives and talent, which will be crucial for advancing Guyanese society.

Thus, education and women’s empowerment in Guyana are intimately linked. For women’s empowerment to advance in Guyana, education must remain a priority. With the support of organizations such as GPE and World Bank, Guyanese leaders strive to continue strengthening education and addressing gender inequalities in the classroom and society.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Death in GuyanaIn Guyana, the life expectancy is anywhere from 64 to 69 years-old. However, the probability of death occurring before the age of 60 is much higher due to a number of health issues affecting the people of Guyana every day. The World Health Organization and The Pan American Health Organization have made substantial progress in lowering fatality rates caused by communicable disease and have since shifted focus to more chronic conditions. These are the top 10 causes of death in Guyana as listed by the HealthData.

10 Causes of Death in Guyana

  1. Ischemic/ Coronary heart disease (CHD) – CHD is characterized by narrowed arteries that disrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart leading to heart attacks. This disease is caused by poor health habits such as drinking, smoking and inactivity. In Guyana, coronary diseases make up 32 percent of all deaths. To combat this issue, The Public Health Ministry of Guyana, The Canadian High Commission and Guyana Program for Advanced Cardiac Care are using PSAs to educate the population.
  2. Cerebrovascular disease (Stroke) – Strokes are attacks on the brain because oxygen and nutrients can’t reach the brain, which leads to the death of brain cells. The most common way to prevent a stroke is by adopting healthy dietary habits such as not smoking, exercising regularly and eating a predominantly vegetarian diet. A stroke doesn’t always result in death, but it can still cause a number of physical problems that require the availability of rehabilitation treatments.
  3. Diabetes Mellitus – In 2017, there were 52,400 cases of diabetes in Guyana, putting the prevalence of this disease at about 11.3 percent. Those most affected by diabetes are individuals between the ages of 45 and over. One strategy that has been taken to reduce the number of patients getting diabetes is the introduction of a tax on sugary beverages.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infection – According to The Guyana Budget & Policy Institute, respiratory infections make up for 31 percent of all child deaths between the ages of 0-1 in Guyana. Lower respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis are the result of poor living conditions such as lack of hygiene, inaccessibility of clean water or sanitation as well as contact with unvaccinated individuals, which is common in Guyana.
  5. Self-harm/Suicide – Guyana has the third highest suicide rate in the world. In Guyana, the rate is 29 suicides per 100,000 deaths. It is also the second leading cause of death for youths between the ages of 15 and 24. Organizations like The National Suicide Prevention Plan and The Suicide Hotline are making efforts to improve mental health services, opening lines of communication and raising awareness about related factors such as alcohol abuse and mental health issues that can lead to suicidal thoughts.
  6. Hypertensive Heart Diseases – These are conditions that are caused most often by high blood pressure and include conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease and thickening of the heart muscle. According to an assessment study in Charleston, Guyana, hypertension is the major cause of death for individuals 45-64 years old. In the study, it was shown that 7 of the 22 subjects, who were between the ages of 27 and 78, had high blood pressure readings and benefited from receiving medication. Certain cases of hypertension can be greatly reduced through long-term efforts. Creating awareness through education such as seminars and workshops and making more heart-healthy foods can contribute to the reduction of these conditions.
  7. HIV/AIDS – In 2016, it was reported that 8,500 people were living with HIV. Almost 100 of those infected were children who had contracted it from their mother. To combat this, Guyana has received more financial support, which allowed for the development of treatment sites and more resources for Voluntary Counselling and Testing clinics. As a result, the availability of antiretroviral drugs had increased to 83.5 percent in 2008, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS had decreased to 1.1 percent in 2011.
  8. Chronic Kidney Disease – This is on the list as one of the causes of death in Guyana because of associated costs. Screening and identification are insufficient to detect chronic kidney disease. As such, many Guyanese people end up being checked into emergency rooms for kidney failure. The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is able to provide transplants at no cost to patients, but patients have to pay the cost of cross-matching tests to find a suitable donor. These tests are currently done in the U.S. and cost least $1 million. In order to avoid kidney failure, it has been recommended to drink sufficient amounts of water and avoid the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.
  9. Road Injuries – According to World Health Rankings, road injuries have accounted for 2.05 percent of all deaths in Guyana. Furthermore, survivors of road accidents are left disabled and, therefore, can’t work, which creates financial instability. The estimated cost of care for accident victims is $100 million. Identified major factors include unlit roads, inexistence of sidewalks and bad driving habits.
  10. Interpersonal Violence – Guyanese people are encouraged to learn how to protect themselves and to seek help from authorities, especially since the police force has undergone a number of reforms such as modernization and more detailed instructions on how to deal with violence. The highest form of violence in Guyana is domestic violence towards women. The First Lady revealed that domestic partner violence has risen from 74.8 percent to 89 percent in just 6 years. As a result, she is increasing efforts to conduct research to find and address the root cause of this violence. She is also calling to educate and empower women in regions of Guyana where domestic violence is high. She is planning to enact The U.K. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security to accomplish these goals.

Despite the efforts made to decrease communicable diseases, there still remains a number of conditions that are in need of attention since they continue to claim the lives of many Guyanese people. The goal, therefore, is to achieve higher life expectancy through the elimination of these non-communicable diseases as well as education and awareness of health risks due to violence, mental health issues, unsafe road conditions and preventable illness.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guyana
Howard Steven Friedman, a writer for the Huffington Post, stated in “America’s Poverty-Education Link” that poverty and education are linked as one and can be the determinant of the other. This means that without education, one is less likely to rise in social ranking in society. In fact, in the United States, 46 percent of Americans who failed to obtain college degrees remained in the lower income rankings.

Personal Testimonies of Education in Guyana

In The Borgen Project’s interview with Nadira Barclay, a student of Guyana, she stated her belief that “there are factors such as not having enough money to travel to school that affect your quality and quantity of education.” That being said, living in poverty takes away the means one may need to succeed educationally.

For Barclay, her education in Guyana brought her through only primary school — grades 1-6; since she lived in the countryside, the only way she would have been able to attend secondary school with minimal costs was to live with someone closer to the school. Due to the fact that she was a young girl, however, her father did not allow her to make the transition.

This is a prime example of the inconveniences students face while trying to pursue education in Guyana. Since Barclay only had a Primary school education, her ability and qualifications to work were limited, which is why today she works as a home health aide for the elderly.

On the other hand, Famida Sukhdeo, an individual Barclay cares for who is also from Guyana, explained, “I had to leave school to take care of my grandmother who was sick. I had to basically babysit her. I had to feed her, bathe her, and clean for her.” Sukhdeo’s case is one of many Guyanese women. For Sukhdeo, she spent her time in the workforce as a nanny, a job not far from what she had to do when she dropped out of school, due to her limited ability to read and write.

Redefining Educational Opportunities

So far, readers have seen the issue of travel costs, sex and domestic responsibilities in relations to education. Both Barclay and Sukhdeo were women raised in poverty who did not have a choice but to comply to gender-based restrictions despite their want to pursue higher education, as their options were limited by their social standings.

Unlike the United States that requires all children to attend school of all levels — from elementary to high school — Guyana makes no such stipulations. In fact, only primary school, which serves children ages 6 to 11, is compulsory. After completion, adolescents are no longer required to attend school and mostly resort to performing domestic tasks such as housekeeping and raising cattle.

As of 2012, Guyana’s expenditure on education from the total GDP was 3.18 percent, 5.22 percent lower than in 2000. According to both Barclay and Sukdheo, back when they were living in Guyana, the government played a bigger role in promoting and supporting education. For instance: “They used to give out clothes, supplies and money to children for school, but all that has stopped.”

Since there is less effort being given towards education in Guyana, research demonstrates that as the age of the population increases, so does the illiteracy rate. As both Barclay and Sukhdeo were able to explain, their lack of education affected them in the long run, especially for employment.

Support and Advocacy Efforts

As of 2002 and continuing to the present day, Global Partnership for Education, coordinated through the World Bank has begun working to improve the quality and quantity of education. This is being done by targeting areas: increasing the number of trained faculty, providing increased access to technology improving the conditions of physical facilities and so on.

So far, the Global Partnership for Education and the government of Guyana have agreed on two goals: increasing the learning outcomes for all regardless of background, and decreasing the differences of education received depending on factors, such as location.

There have also been goals set in place to measure Guyana’s progress: increasing literacy among fourth grade students to 50 percent, increasing the quantity of sixth grade students who reach 50 percent or more in core subjects to 40 percent, and increasing the number of students who pass core subject tests in secondary schools to 60 percent.

A Brighter Future

By continually working with the Global Partnership for Education, education in Guyana will continue to improve as the awareness and importance of education spreads. Thanks to continued organizational efforts and a U.S. education-geared grant of $1.7 million, the quality of education and quality of life of its recipients should both hopefully improve.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

Media Misrepresents GuyanaGuyana is a country abundant in coconut trees, sapodilla and spices. It is unique in its distance from the norms of the Caribbean and in not being racially unified. It also has one of the highest emigration rates in the world, partially due to high rates of poverty. Despite these downsides, the county has developed a strong sense of Indian and African cultures.

How the Media Misrepresents Guyana as Non-Caribbean

While Guyana is located at the tip of South America, the nation does not participate in Caribbean culture. One way the media misrepresents Guyana is that many Caribbean countries speak languages such as French and some form of Creole in addition to English, while Guyana citizens only speak English which is possibly why it is seen as an outcast.

In fact, Guyana is the only country in South America whose official language in English. This is due to Guyana being one of the only countries in the Caribbean that was under the rule of the British Empire. This also explains the demographics of the country: an almost even divide between Indians and Africans, stemming from the arrival of African slaves and Indian indentured servants. This means that the culture of a typical Guyanese may not specifically match that of someone from a country such as Barbados or Grenada.

However, many of the concepts of daily life in Guyana are not foreign to the Caribbean. For instance, some of the most popular genres of music listened to are calypso, chutney and soca. Among these genres are artists such as Machel Montano, Sparrow and Ravi B. Once again, although there are differences between the prominent cultures of Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean, these rhythms offer a sense of connection and community among them.

Another aspect of life connecting Guyana to the Caribbean that is overlooked is food. Famous dishes that are part of everyday life include saltfish, curry, plantains and callaloo. The main reason why the media misrepresents Guyana is because, depending on the town, village and country, foods go by different names. For example, while Guyana knows an oft-used root as cassava, the Dominican Republic knows it as yucca. The same dishes are identified differently in separate areas of the Caribbean, causing the dishes to be seen as distinguished.

How the Media Portrays the Guyanese

On the other hand, another way the media misrepresents Guyana is by claiming the population is racially homogenous and unified. What the public fails to see is that the country is almost equally divided between Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese, but is also home to many other minorities such as Amerindians and Chinese. Approximately 40 percent of Guyana’s population is of East Indian descent, 30 percent is of African descent, 20 percent is mixed and 10 percent is Amerindian.

While there are political and social tensions between the groups over issues such as land, culture and governmental rule, what this array of cultures illustrates is that the country is able to combine all of them to create one unique nationality: Guyanese. This can also be related to why Guyana is commonly not seen as part of the Caribbean.

Additionally, this allows for the country to have multiple backgrounds, making its history rich and complex. For instance, when African slaves were forcibly brought to Guyana and refused to work, those of East Indian descent were brought from India as indentured servants. Meanwhile, Amerindians share the bloodline of the indigenous people of Guyana.

How the Media Fails to Show Guyana’s Progress

Keeping in mind the several groups that reside in Guyana, it must be noted that the country has one of the highest emigration rates in world at 55 percent. What this means is that 55 percent of Guyanese citizens live abroad in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Currently, approximately two-thirds of Guyana’s population lives in poverty. This is due to the fact that many people citizens live in rural areas and must work as agricultural laborers, which does not provide sufficient profit because the country’s productivity is so low.

Again, despite this negative aspect, the media misrepresents Guyana by failing to report the positive efforts of the World Bank and the United Nations, clouding the country’s progression. In fact, currently, the World Bank is working to allocate funds toward the improvement of infrastructure, quality of health, education and water services in Guyana. Additionally, while the demographics of the indigenous groups of Guyana may be low, the U.N. is working to improve their financial means and stability, aiming to better their overall quality of life.

While Guyana is struggling in some areas, the country has developed strong individual cultures while also building a national identity. Furthermore, while there are high rates of poverty throughout Guyana, the country is taking steps toward improving the quality of life for citizens. Overall, Guyana’s strong sense of culture shows persistence, resilience and community.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

How the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to GuyanaLocated on the northern mainland of South America, Guyana is now considered a middle-income country. That is perhaps why U.S. foreign aid to Guyana has been decreasing over the years. However, Guyana faces many issues such as drug trafficking and other regional crimes that require foreign assistance in order to effectively address them. In fact, it is not just Guyana that benefits from foreign aid. U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Guyana as well, since it helps the U.S. in its fight against diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

One major goal for the U.S. is to effectively address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is why the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was established in 2003. Through PEPFAR, Guyana has been able to significantly improve its response to HIV. For instance, PEPFAR helped establish the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) and supported the development of a prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) program.

It also helped the Guyanese national blood safety program to reach international standards, established functioning supply chain management and improved strategic information. As a result of these initiatives, Guyana saw significant improvement in its response to HIV/AIDS and has also become more efficient in working on its own to fight this disease.

Recently, however, there have been drastic reductions in PEPFAR’s operations in Guyana. For instance, PEPFAR no longer provides antiretroviral drugs to Guyana, and the country has assumed responsibility for all cervical cancer and PMTCT activities, blood safety in the country and human resources for the NPHRL. Although this makes it a challenge for the country to continue responding strongly to this epidemic, it also makes Guyana self-sufficient as it gathers domestic funds for HIV/AIDS programs.

However, PEPFAR is still crucial in Guyana because there are many ways the country still needs assistance. For instance, there are still “gaps in core strategic information, laboratory and supply chain systems as well as pervasive stigma and discrimination” in the country. By helping to establish a sustainable national HIV program in Guyana, PEPFAR would achieve its goal. In that way, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Guyana.

Additionally, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Guyana because the U.S. is committed to combatting drug trafficking, and Guyana is one of the most frequently used transit points for this illegal activity. U.S. assistance through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) helps Guyana effectively tackle drug trafficking. The CBSI-funded programs in Guyana work to improve law enforcement capabilities, “protect borders and ports, strengthen workforce development, and promote anti-money laundering effectiveness,” efforts that address key concerns shared by both Guyana and the U.S.  Additionally, U.S. assistance also helps promote law enforcement professionalization and effective narcotics investigations, thereby improving the anti-drug trafficking strategy in Guyana.

There are other ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Guyana, as it helps the country effectively respond to issues such human trafficking and other crimes that also affect the U.S. Hopefully, with continued collaborated efforts from both the U.S. and Guyana, the country will be able to effectively address all of these issues.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Google

Sustainable Agriculture in GuyanaGuyana is one of the smallest countries in South America and a large portion of its population lives in poverty. One study found that nearly four in 10 people in Guyana live in poverty while almost two in 10 live in extreme poverty. Agriculture is the most important productive sector in the country, as it accounts for nearly one-third of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 30 percent of the country’s employment. Programs to aid sustainable agriculture in Guyana are crucial for its economic growth.

The volatility of international price rates and extreme weather changes challenge the Guyanese agricultural sector. However, this sector also has great growth potential in the country, and the Guyanese government and other foreign nations are investing in sustainable agriculture in Guyana.

The Food and Agriculture Organization

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working closely with the Guyanese government to promote sustainable agricultural systems and alleviate hunger and poverty.

Guyana’s 2012-2015 National Medium-Term Priority Framework, which is now known as the Country Programming Framework (CPF), is guiding the FAO’s assistance in the country. The CPF centers on four priority areas:

  • Food security and nutrition
  • Agricultural and rural development
  • Renewable natural resources and climate change
  • Agricultural health and food safety

Among its projects, FAO’s most successful initiative in Guyana’s agriculture sector aims to train people how to respond to extreme climate change and natural disasters. Droughts and floods severely affect farmers and the agriculture sector in Guyana. The FAO assisted the Guyanese government in the formation of a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Plan.

The project included training Ministry of Agriculture extension officers and other stakeholders in accordance with the FAO Livelihood Assessment Toolkit and a “full assessment of existing mechanisms for prevention, mitigation and preparedness, as well as response and recovery.” As a result, an informative report emerged to help the development of sustainable agriculture in Guyana. This project had success at the community level, and the Guyanese government has called on the FAO to help implement the DRM Plan in response to extreme climatic changes.

Other Projects for Sustainable Agriculture

Several other projects funded by foreign organizations are working to develop sustainable agriculture in Guyana. For instance, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded Rural Enterprise and Development Project (READ) seeks to strengthen “intermediary service providers, institutions whose services add value to production and marketing systems and improve rural welfare.” In addition, the program works with rural communities to improve their capacity to capitalize on market opportunities.

Similarly, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded Agricultural Export Diversification Program (ADP) aims to establish institutions and services for a sustainable increase in the incomes from “the export of non-traditional agricultural exports in aquaculture, fruits and vegetables and livestock subsectors.” This project focuses on developing commodity chains on the nontraditional agricultural products in order to address Guyana’s export growth rate volatility.

Investment in sustainable agriculture in Guyana is crucial in order to boost productivity and sustainable use of resources in the country. Hopefully, with similar continued efforts, the country will be able to reduce poverty and promote food accessibility for everyone.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr