Approximately US$150,000 is likely to be expended over the next year as part of a President Bush Emergency Plan for AIDS Reduction (PEPFAR) Hinterland Initiative, which is expected to see more than 25 organisations in partnership to improve the delivery of health care.
A meeting intended to chart the way forward for the initiative was held yesterday at the High Street, Kingston head office of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to Chief of Party at CDC, Dr LaMar Hasbrouck, the hinterland initiative, which is now in its embryonic stage, is geared at addressing health challenges locally, particularly in the area of HIV/AIDS.
He noted though that with the involvement of the many partnering organisations, including the Ministries of Health, the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) and several Non-Governmental Organisations, it is anticipated that there will be a response to other diseases as well.
According to him, the CDC has always fostered a multi-sectoral approach and thus intends to promote independence and integration of the respective organisations as the initiative unfolds.
Dr Hasbrouck explained that the programme was first visualised after the need to provide equity in the delivery of health services in hinterland regions, particularly in the area of HIV/AIDS, was highlighted during discussions with the Head of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), Dr Shanti Singh.
The CDC Chief of Party pointed out that so far the initiative has not been fully defined and designed, thus the need for the input of the partnering organisations that will help to bring it to fruition.
The main objective of yesterday’s meeting was to coordinate and integrate efforts that will result in them working more synergistically towards benefiting hinterland communities.
Dr Singh said that 9.2 per cent of the hinterland population constitutes persons of Amerindian ancestry, adding that such a situation could in fact present a challenge to the unfolding initiative.
She related that based on information received from Dr Abdel Abdalla who leads the roving NAPS Medical Hinterland Team, most of the infections in the hinterland regions result from the movement of persons from the coastland to the hinterland regions and vice versa.
And given the nature of the situation in the hinterland, even in relation to other diseases, Dr Singh pointed out that the PEPFAR initiative is very timely and could aptly address the problem in the outline areas.
According to Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, the venture comes at a time when the sector is about to celebrate 30 years of Alma-Ata, a primary health care initiative.
The Minister pointed out that about 17 million children died annually around the time that the initiative was formulated. He noted that at the end of 2005, the number of children under five that died annually was reduced to about nine million, thus signalling that the initiative had worked.
Today, the Minister said, in Guyana more than 95 per cent of children are covered even as he noted that globally maternal mortality reduced by between 30 and 50 per cent adding that infant mortality has also been reduced because of the recognition that health must be brought to the people.
He divulged that the government recognises that it is unreasonable and unacceptable that persons in the hinterland have to come to the city for health care, thus the construction of more than 400 health care facilities scattered around the country.
Additionally, the Minister pointed out that the PEPFAR initiative will be able to start off at a position of strength since there is recognition by the country, its government and people, that health care is critical to solving poverty issues and for development.
He noted that the hinterland initiative could prove to be a vehicle for the Guyana success story even as he warned that there is no place for competition when it comes to the health of the people.
Newly appointed United States Ambassador to Guyana, Mr John Jones said that the initiative is one that is very important to Guyana and the United States since it is intended to expand the services offered to the hinterland community.
He said that at the moment the PEPFAR programme funds 15 local outreaches, 14 on the coastland and one in the hinterland, which serves approximately 2,500 persons.
However, he noted that with the new initiative, programmes will be funded in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine, which he described as a very ambitious move.
According to the Ambassador, it is expected that within the next year there will be much collaboration between the Guyana and US Governments and the representatives of the partnering organisations in an effort to bring real benefit to the hinterland residents.
Funding for the programme will be made available through a renewed tranche of PEPFAR funding which, according to Dr Hasbrouck, will amount to about $40 billion. (Sharmain Cornette)
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