Modern media and legislation are flooded with facts about asylum seekers because of refugee crises in the Middle East. The numbers in facts about Guyana refugees, albeit minuscule compared to 24 million Syrians, represents the refugee crisis on a smaller scale.

In 1994, there were 822 asylum applicants out of the South American country of Guyana. This figure drastically dropped over the following seven years, and increased again in 2002, with 847 applications. In the next year, 2003, 729 Guyanese sought asylum to main asylum countries like Canada and France. Additionally, more than 640 of those 729 applicants sought asylum in Canada and 45 applicants sought asylum to France.

The asylum-seeking number plummeted again in 2004, with only 315 total applications. There were even fewer the next year. The total number of asylum applications to main asylum countries in 2005 was just 279.

More recent facts about Guyana refugees show a downward sloping trend. A world database reported the total number of initial and continuing asylum applications of refugees from Guyana in 2015 to be only 122. The database provided a breakdown of which countries received the applications and how many were rejected.

Guyanese asylum seekers filed 46 applications seeking refuge to the United States, 38 to France, 31 to Canada and seven to the United Kingdom. Of those 122 applications, 40 were rejected. The United State rejected five applications, France rejected 19, Canada 10 and six were rejected by the United Kingdom.

According to the Migration Information Source, there were 2.86 million South American immigrants in the United States in the year 2014. Guyana represented 273,000, or 9.6 percent of those South American immigrants. In 2013, five percent of South Americans obtained green cards as refugees or asylees.

In that same year, there were reportedly 700 outgoing refugees from Guyana. More than 180 asylum seekers’ cases were pending at the start of 2014, and 145 asylum seekers’ cases were pending at the end of the year.

In 2014, there were 94 rejections, 27 asylum seekers were recognized and 31 asylum seekers’ applications were marked as closed. In total, 153 decisions were made and during the year and 145 new asylum applications were filed. Of all decisions, 17.6 percent were determined to be recognized refugees, with less than one percent receiving complementary protection status. More than 60 percent were rejected.

Current and ongoing refugee crises in Afghanistan and Syria have flooded the news cycle with facts about asylum seekers. Although small in comparison with three million refugees coming out of Afghanistan, the facts about Guyana refugees represent the crisis on a smaller scale.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Guyana
One of any civilization’s most important resources is its water supply, and in Guyana, the importance of water quality is paramount. Guyana’s top exports and leading industries are agricultural, which requires a massive proportion of the country’s water withdrawals (94.4 percent in 2010). The country’s long-term average annual precipitation is 2.4 meters, and the average actual renewable water resources total around 600,000 gallons a year.

According to U.N. Water, Guyana invested around $36 million into water-related infrastructure and programs from 2003 to 2011, and more than 37 percent of that money, approximately $13 million, was put into the large water supply and sanitation systems. “In 2003, water supply and sanitation – large systems received 7.9 million constant 2010 U.S. dollars, representing the largest amount invested by the government in one water-related category over this period,” the U.N. Water Guyana country brief states.

In that seven-year span, official development assistance totaled more than $84 million, of which nearly 35 percent, or $29 million, went toward large water supply and sanitation systems. The U.N. Water report on Guyana states that water, sanitation and hygiene factors contributed to more than 300 deaths in 2004, which is nearly 3.5 percent of all deaths in the country. Since 1990, the under-five child mortality rate has dropped from a probability of 65 per 1,000 lives births to fewer than 30 per 1,000 live births in 2010. This may be due to the increased number of children with access to improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities.

The U.N. water report also states that 94 percent of the country’s 758,000 people used an improved drinking water source in 2010, compared to 88 percent in 1994. In addition, the number of people with access to improved sanitation facilities rose 10 percentages points in those 16 years.

The report notes that little data is available on drinking water quality in Guyana. It clearly states that the country faces water-related challenges, including contamination of potable water supplies, which lead to water-borne diseases such as vector-borne lymphatic filariasis and leptospirosis. It also notes that there is a lack of highly qualified personnel within water sector institutions.

According to the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), these diseases are generally associated with standing water, mosquito-borne lymphatic filariasis and contaminated (water related) leptospirosis.

A July 2014 news release from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) states that water quality in Guyana may soon vastly improve with The Program to Improve Water and Sanitation Infrastructure and Supply.

The IADB loaned Guyana Water Incorporated more than $16 million while the European Union invested more than $14 million, in part to educate residents on proper hygiene practices.

This program could help decrease the prevalence of leptospirosis as it is commonly correlated with coming in contact with waters contaminated by animal waste, according to the CDC.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Guyana has improved exponentially over the past decade as the number of people who suffer from hunger has been halved.

According to the U.N., Guyana is one of 38 countries that have met internationally established targets in the effort to eliminate hunger.

The country was recognized by the World Food Summit (WFS) for more than halving the absolute number of undernourished people between 1992 and 2012. The number reduced from more than 19 percent to just over five percent in that 20-year time span. The number lowered from 143,000 to 38,000 undernourished people.

Reflected in the WFS report are the implications of poverty, food insecurity and hunger in Guyana. Extreme poverty in Guyana has declined from 28.7 percent in 1993 to 18.6 percent in 2006. In order to reach the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, that rate must have fallen by four percentage points by 2015.

The report raised concern not about the availability of food in the region, but rather the ability to make food widely accessible. Guyana has remote rural regions of underdeveloped communities to which it is difficult to distribute quality, nutritious meals. Raising agricultural productivity is the key in this regard because remote rural areas are largely dependent on their own crops and livestock.

Sixty percent of the country’s gross domestic product is represented by six exports: sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber and rice. Guyana was once a powerful producer of sugar, yet its production sunk to an all-time low in 2014. However, more recent crop production numbers have shown improvement.

To limit malnutrition, assuring the right food choices is important. In 2008, less than one percent of children under five suffered from extreme malnutrition. In addition, less than six percent experienced mild to moderate malnutrition.

The country’s minister of agriculture Leslie Ramsammy produced a food security report in July 2012. The report stated that an increasing population and the adverse of effects of climate change were the drivers of food insecurity. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently established a National Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Plan for the agriculture sector.

Ramsammy noted that a high food import bill and high national debt were the two biggest threats. At that time, debt levels were at more than 45 percent of Guyanese Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The minister of agriculture concluded that Guyana must reaffirm its commitment to the science of crop management and agriculture practices.

Hunger in Guyana has improved greatly over the past 20 years. The country has resolved to work with international organizations to reach global goals to develop locally groundbreaking agriculture advancements.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Guyana
The third-smallest South American country came into independence in 1966 after more than 340 years of colonial control by the Dutch, British and French. Slavery and indentured servitude brought immigrants from several continents, giving Guyana one of the most ethnically diverse populations globally. Many ethnic origins are international, and many people choose to leave and live in other countries. Guyana has one of the worst net migration rates in the world as more than 55% migrate to find work.


Sixty percent of the country’s gross domestic product is represented by six exports: sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber, and rice. Guyana was once a powerful producer of sugar, yet its production sunk to an all-time low in 2014. More recent crop production numbers have shown an improvement. A 2015 submission to the Guyana Sugar Corporation Commission of Inquiry reported reaching 94 percent of productivity goals in the first half of that year.

With somewhat recent estimates stating that 35% of the population lives in poverty, Guyana is one of the world’s poorest nations. (2012 Gross National Income (GNI) per capita: $3,410-USD, 2011: $2,900-USD)


Less than 3.5% of Guyana’s GDP goes toward education expenditures. Less than 90% of people age 15 and over have attended school, and the average school-life expectancy is 10 years.

In its population, 27% of which are children under the age of 15,  just 281,000 people use the internet. More than a quarter of the population are without cellular telephones. Of those 199,607 0-14-year-olds, 16% are child laborers.


There were 100 HIV/AIDS-related deaths in 2015. With a population of less than 800,000, that number is staggering. In that year there were nearly 8,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Guyana.

The cause for low numbers of doctors and hospital beds is very low health expenditures. The country has a low life expectancy, 165th in the world at 68.4%. This is likely due to the populations’ increased exposure to major infectious diseases like hepatitis A and malaria.

Water supplies are endangered by sewage, chemicals, and well water pollution by saltwater from the sea.


According to the CIA world factbook, the government remains maligned in sizable debt servitude despite the Inter-American Development Bank canceling more than $450 million of their debt a decade ago. While that brought the debt-to-GDP ratio down from 183% in 2006 to 67 percent in 2015, the country sorely needs investments in infrastructure and an influx of skilled workers.

Coordinating with international health organizations to develop research facilities would develop a premier health care network.

Currently, the nation’s largest university focuses mainly on agricultural sciences. While the Pan-American Health Organization maintains an office in the country, working to expand upon that network would prove beneficial.

Developing a health care network on the northern-most coast of South America would aid in fighting infectious disease in Guyana. This creates a need to improve its poor infrastructure and bring skilled medical professionals back into the country.

The focus on improving health conditions in Guyana is the first step toward a stronger economy. Improving health conditions is done by investing more resources, educating physicians and keeping those doctors from emigrating by buying more hospital beds. The possibility of creating an infrastructure around medical research facilities could benefit the region, keep and draw skilled health professionals in and to Guyana.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Guyana Oil

Exxon Mobile’s recent Guyana oil discovery has given the historically poor nation reason to cheer. With oil the most important commodity in the global market, the South American country expects to make a large profit from the discovery.

Exxon Mobil found the oil on their sprawling 6.6 million acre oilfield off the coast of Stabroek, Guyana.

In the Stabroek block, the company’s Liza-1 well was drilled to more than 17,000 feet. There, the company found more than 295 feet of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs.

The oil company is encouraged by the discovery and plans to determine the potential of the other sites.

With Liza-1 being the company’s first site of many, there is a good chance of further discoveries. Also, the findings from the well will be sent for analysis to determine its full commercial potential.

Even if no further discoveries are made, Guyana’s former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment believes any discovery of oil will greatly boost the nation’s economy.

With Guyana having the 157th largest economy in the world, the recent discovery of the highly valued commodity promises to have transformational effects on the nation. Large revenues and foreign investments will pour into the country from its oil sales.

To ensure that the money will be used wisely, the President of Guyana, David Granger, promises to create a sovereign wealth fund from the Guyana oil revenue.

A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is a pool of a nation’s money that is set aside for investments that will benefit the country’s economy and citizens. In this case, the revenue from Guyana oil sales will be put into a fund that will be reinvested in the country.

To assist in the creation of the SWF, Guyana is turning to their neighbor to the north, Canada. Researchers at the University of Calgary are putting together plans for the creation of the SWF.

Speaking on this, Guyana’s Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman, said, “So later in the month of November, a team is coming from the University of Calgary with the specific responsibility of putting together the mechanism for what we refer to as the Sovereign Wealth Fund.”

The minister went on to reveal that the SWF will be split into three separate sub-funds.

One will look to secure funds the nation’s wealth for the future generations. The second will be a rainy-day fund for the nation’s budget in fiscally lean years. The third will be for developmental projects or initiatives.

Trotman expanded on this, saying, “So there are three funds that comprise the Sovereign Wealth Fund, but each has a different rate at which it is supplied and different reasons or mechanisms from which it can draw down.”

The three sub-funds ensure that the Guyana oil wealth will be used to benefit the nation as a whole. It includes investments into development and plans to save for the future.

The SWF is such a popular idea among the people that during the previous election both the current President and the opposition party had plans to create one.

Upon inauguration, President Granger promised that any funds from natural resources would benefit the people through an SWF.

He believes an SWF will make sure that “children will not have to live in poverty; that no matter what happens to the resources of the country, there will always be wealth to look after their education.”

The large oil revenues pouring into the SWF ensures that Guyana will have a strong investment in the nation and its citizens.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Guyana Times 1, Guyana Times 2, Investopedia, Quandl
Photo: Guyanese Online

President Barack Obama’s Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) was implemented in the early part of this decade. The United States is working with nations in the Caribbean on substantially reducing illicit trafficking, increasing public safety and security and promoting social justice.


SKYE, or The Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment, program was a direct result of this initiative. It is funded by USAID, managed by the Education Development Center and works with private sector partners, government ministries, community agencies and NGOs.

Their goal is to train and educate the community’s youth in the areas that have been identified as priorities by public and private sector employers in Guyana. Those areas are communications, personal development, local labor laws and financial literacy.

SKYE works with the local youth that are school dropouts, youth who have completed formal education or training but do not have the necessary skills to find employment, and youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Not only does SKYE train these youth, but it sees them into the working force through the use of “employment coaches.”

It is often easy to train the youth, but to see them into the workforce is the daunting task. That is why many employment coaches stayed paired with their youth until they find work. As of June 2014, more than 1,100 youth have completed SKYE’s work readiness training and 400 graduates have already found employment.

Popularity and Success

The program has become so popular and received such a reputation for producing work-ready employees with positive attitudes that BK Quarries, one of the region’s largest employers, recently asked for twenty more SKYE graduates after hiring fourteen.

An April 2004 SKYE graduation ceremony, in which 57 youth graduated, was led by the U.S. ambassador to Guyana, D. Brent Hardt. In the ceremony’s opening speech, he said that SKYE was focused on “strengthening an environment that facilitates youth development, supporting the reintegration to society of high-risk populations, supporting Guyana’s youth in their efforts to find employment or start their own businesses, and supporting the greater engagement of young people as active Guyanese citizens.”

Fiona Wills, who directs SKYE, credited the program’s success to its emphasis on providing youth with one-on-one support and letting each one decide on a path that interests him or her: “Everything we do is about empowering young people to help themselves.”

With this momentum, the program will only continue to move forward at its empowering pace, as it is targeting the right demographic. For there to be a better tomorrow, in any country, we need to focus on breaking the preconceived notions of the youth.

Poverty, and the constraints it invokes, needs to be shown to be breakable. If the youth of a country can’t break free of the poverty cycle through employment programs and other aids, then that country is permanently stuck in poverty’s grip. With programs like SKYE in effect, the world has a better chance of elevating all of its citizens to a place where they can provide their own food, shelter, and clothing.

Frederick Wood II

Sources: InterAction, Guyana Times, Embassy of the United States, USAID Blog
Photo: Flickr

Hydropower in Guyana
Guyana is currently developing a plan to harness Amaila Falls’ potent hydropower, power that is capable of producing electricity (165MW to be exact) for the whole of Guyana, reports The Economist.

The project is set to cost around $840 million and was initially headed by Sithe Global of the global investment and advisory firm, the Blackstone Group. In addition, investments from China Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank were to take part in harnessing the country’s torrents.

However, a lack of unanimous concession by the Guyanese legislative branch has resulted in Sithe Global’s withdrawal from the project. Primary criticisms by legislators were its lack of transparency—particularly the projects expenditures and the engineering plans.

The deals brokering between the Amaila Falls Hydro Inc. and its power players remained cloak and dagger, arousing skepticism from the project’s critics.

Despite the halt in the project, it was predicted to minimally affect the ecological community. Moreover, the site of the project, located at the intersection of the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers is 30 km from the nearest community, supposedly to avoid disturbing any local villages in the region.

With the promise of hydroelectricity in 2017, Guyana could possibly reduce its reliance on imported oil although the cost of electricity will remain expensive.

Furthermore, with a shift to hydropower, green house gas emissions (GHG) were projected to decrease by 87%.

It’s realization would have cost the federally funded Guyana Power and Light (GPL) company to pay an estimated $100 million a year to the aforementioned investment groups and companies.

Despite the country’s massive potential for hydroelectricity, the project remains at a standstill. The secrecy of the project propelled its main investors, from remaining with the project. Yet, Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar recently stated that Sithe Global is still very much interested in the project, pending Parliament’s unanimous agreement.

Regardless of legislative decision, the go-ahead for the project remains largely with Sithe Global, who possesses the license to Amaila Falls’ development.

– Miles Abadilla

Sources: Amaila Hydropower, The Economist, Fox News, Kaieteur News
Photo: Wondermodo