Guyana Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has outlined health progress being made in his country despite high levels of poverty and major floods that affected hundreds of thousands of people earlier this year.
In a special briefing on "Country focus in action: the case of Guyana" during the 58th World Health Assembly, Dr. Ramsammy said health expenditures have increased to $55 for each person every year, but the poverty rate remains high in rural interior areas, where 70 percent of the population earns less than $1 a day, and continuing cooperation is needed.
Guyana has been designated one of five key countries deserving special attention to improve national health development by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The others are Bolivia, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua.
PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses praised "the generosity and solidarity we have seen toward Guyana, both from the region and elsewhere, and the partnerships and technical cooperation among countries that is making possible Guyana's transition in health development."
"This special country focus and continuing integrated support for Guyana as a key country is vital until we see the fruits of development that will come from a healthier, stronger population," Dr. Roses said.
Guyana's health minister expressed gratitude for the cooperation and mobilization of resources for his country from a variety of agencies, noting that the integrated strategy "is an excellent example of PAHO and WHO country focus that is pivotal to Guyana in being able to attain its national health goals and the Millennium Development Goals."
Dr. Ramsammy noted that the recent flooding that affected half the population highlighted the importance of international partnerships and PAHO's important role in advocating for the country. "We averted a major health catastrophe and were able to control a leptospirosis outbreak," he said. But Guyana needs continuing cooperation to overcome critical shortages of health workers, continue its high immunization coverage, and to provide antiretroviral drugs to persons with HIV, he said. The overall poverty rate is 19 percent, down from almost 28 percent ten years ago.
Guyana's National Health Sector Plan and the international cooperation strategy aim to continue advocacy, research, surveillance, promotion of health lifestyles, program planning and implementation, and mobilization of more resources. Priority technical areas include communicable diseases, chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer, maternal and child health, water and sanitation, continuing immunization coverage, and others.
The health assembly, in which officials from 192 countries participate, continues through next week in Geneva.
PAHO, which serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their people. PAHO Member States today include all 35 countries in the Americas. France, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are Participating States. Portugal and Spain are Observer States, and Puerto Rico is an Associate Member.