UNICEF response to migrant issue
Guyana and Venezuela share a porous border stretching over 789 km, with two formal border-posts along the route. Venezuelans and returning Guyanese with their families are crossing back into Guyana at random points, often without going through formal registration. Guyana is described as a destination country, with mainly families settling in communities in Regions 1, 2 and 7 , and adults travelling alone to the urban centres such as Georgetown and Bartica. There have been 13,246 official migrant entries from April 2018- December 2019 (of which 30 per cent are children) but this figure is officially recognized as less than actual numbers. Based on UN estimates the forecast is to see 31,000 new migrants entering Guyana by the end of 2020 which represents an additional 4% of Guyana’s total population of 750,000, with these migrants mainly settling in border hinterland areas. Once registered, the official position of the government is that migrants are entitled to have access to services such as health care and education.
Registration points and settlement locations for migrants are mainly in the indigenous border Regions 1, 7 and the peri-urban areas of Regions 2 and 3 of Guyana. Through national surveys that measure social and physical wellbeing, these areas have the poorest socio-economic data, with Region 1 having the greatest number of the communities hosting migrants, identified as the worst Region nationally for social, health and well- being indicators for children. Nationally, health, education and socioeconomic indicators for the host communities in these border and peri-urban areas are at the bottommost when compared with other areas in Guyana.
Women and girl children especially are at significant risk of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) as the places that migrants have been settling in tend to be the gold mining areas where these risks and threats are already prevalent. Also with limited employment options available in these areas, female migrants are more vulnerable especially if they don’t speak English.
The host communities and Venezuelan migrants have been reached through coordinated health-nutrition, education and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions undertaken by UNICEF supported Ministries and Non Government Organizations (NGOs). Through the UNICEF supported Migrant and Host Community Services (MHCS) project Child Advocacy Centres (CACs) have been established to provide a child friendly one stop location for children and women to seek support relating to GBV and SEA issues in Administrative Regions 1,2, 4 and 7, also providing counselling and support for women and children from host community and migrant families. In 2019, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Social Protection (MoSP), initiated the provision of cash assistance to 25 migrant families through the introduction of a shock-responsive facility within the national social welfare safety net.
UNICEF has supported the review of immigration protocols especially on the issue of separated and unaccompanied children and with the review of the particular requirements for revised legislation on birth registration and prevention of Statelessness. Within the education sector response, UNICEF has supported Positive Discipline initiative to add specific modules to address new challenges posed by migration. In the educational districts most impacted by the migration influx, over 15,000 host community and migrant children are now benefitting from innovative teaching and learning approaches implemented with UNICEF standards for ECD focusing on conflict resolution and positive discipline.
UNICEF also partnered with the University of Guyana (Faculty of Technology), for civil engineering and architectural assessments of six schools in Region 1 that are absorbing migrant children (1,810, including 97 migrants) to accommodate a greater number of children. UNICEF supported the Region 1 Education District with the provision of 55 sets of classroom furniture catering for an additional 110 children in school. The Information Management System support to the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) ’s national Disaster Risk Management mechanism has been initiated at the end of 2019 with the NGO MapAction facilitating training for 30 CDC staff and volunteers at national and sub-national level which was completed in the first quarter of 2020.
Key achievements in 2019 are highlighted below by programme area:
Nutrition -Through 2019 UNICEF supported the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) train 164 Community Health workers (CHWs) in infant and young child feeding (IYCF) counselling (breastfeeding and complementary feeding), promotion and use of micronutrient powders (Sprinkles), and on conducting nutrition assessment to monitor nutritional status (malnutrition). Sustained IYCF outreach for the care givers of 2530 children between the ages of 0 to 24 months has been maintained through what is now regular MoPH programming in the Administrative Region receiving most migrants. During September and October, there have been five cases of malnutrition in children being identified through the surveillance mechanisms.
Health - Within UNICEF’s support for CHW training, a menstrual hygiene management (MHM) component focusing on MHM in Emergencies was included, with these health professionals covering the WASH project communities complementing the WASH infrastructure and nutrition interventions. As a result, 150 children under 12 years old and at least 50 children between 13-18 years had the opportunity to participate in community-led activities that combine health education within anti-xenophobia and social cohesion initiatives. In linking health-nutrition, education and WASH, field implementing partners are now in a position to facilitate sustained interventions that impact 3,718 persons of which 1,487 are children.
Education - Early Childhood Development (ECD) and stimulation sessions through the partnership with the Catholic Diocese were undertaken in Regions 1 and 9 host communities with the programme being scoped for expansion to Regions 2 and 7. The ECD sessions were attended by 405 children between the ages of 0 to 4 with facilitation by UNICEF trained community volunteers. These ECD sessions have the additional benefit of promoting social cohesion between the migrants and host communities, and for CHWs to undertake outreach for health and development issues. Partnering with the University of Guyana, UNICEF has facilitated civil engineering and architectural assessments of six schools that are absorbing migrant children (total school population 1,810, including 97 migrants).
WASH - The UNICEF supported Migrant WASH Improvement Programme implemented by Guyana Water Inc (GWI) in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has been implemented in six indigenous communities hosting Venezuelan migrants since March 2019. The overall project design aims at the provision of emergency response, and medium and long-term solutions for WASH challenges faced by the host communities and Venezuelan migrants. Due to climate change the traditional sources of water are becoming depleted therefore GWI’s access to new drilling technology and use of solar pumps has been integrated into the 2019 response. Demand from host communities for safe sanitation options has significantly increased leading to construction of more facilities.
Child Protection - The UNICEF supported Migrant and Host Community Services (MHCS) initiative implemented through Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) that provide a child friendly one stop location for children and women to seek support relating to GBV and SEA issues was undertaken in host communities in Administrative Regions 1,2, 4 and 7. Counselling and other support for women and children resulted in 129 referrals and forensic interviews. Partnering with the Ministry of Social Protection (MoSP), UNICEF provided assistance to 25 migrant families in Georgetown to access funds through the shock-responsive social welfare safety net. 2020 plan is to expand the coverage to peri-urban and border areas.
Communications for Development (C4D), Community Engagement & Accountability - Recognizing the lack of opportunity for children to cope with challenging conditions in host communities, UNICEF has oriented five host communities in Region 1 with the Sports-Culture for Development (SC4D) programme. The SC4D programme allows adolescents and young people to actively engage in positive development and healthy lifestyle choices through participation and empowerment. Through the CACs,. Information was provided on accessing essential health, protection and education services while also providing guidance on accessing legal aid in Spanish language outreach exercises in host communities. Information Management support to the national DRM mechanism has been initiated at the in f 2019 with the INGO MapAction facilitating training for staff and volunteers