… caused by illegal Venezuelan miningBy Jeanna PearsonChoked by their massive economic crisis, many Venezuelan workers are flocking to Cuidad in Region 7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) to illegally mine for gold and their heavy presence is contributing to the outbreak of Malaria.Hundreds of Guyanese and Venezuelans are falling sick with malaria in a village called Cuidad, near the Venezuelan border. And according to Public Health Minister Dr George Norton, while they do not know the exact figures, the numbers are rising.Reports of the outbreak have even reached the international media, with the New York Times saying that there are no medications in the Region to help all the sick people. According to the New York Times: “There were no lights because the government had cut power to save electricity. There were no medicines because the Health Ministry had not delivered any. Health workers administered blood tests with their bare hands because they were out of gloves.”Venezuela was the first country in the world that was certified by the World Health Organization for the eradication of malaria, however, the economic crisis has turned the tables around. Because of poor and insanitary living conditions, many Venezuelans were contracting malaria in Venezuela and inadvertently spreading it in Guyana by illegally mining in Region 7.Norton stated that the outbreak has hit two Amerindian Carib Settlements in Region Seven. “The Venezuelans are coming in and are carrying out large-scale mining in that region,” he said. He highlighted that a medical team, comprising of himself, the Vector Control Unit, and the Regional Health Officers will be deployed to the Region.“We plan on addressing the issue and making certain that there are medication on the ground and medical personnel is there,” he added.When questioned on how the ministry found out about the outbreak, Norton indicated that it was the news story in the New York Times. He stated that the community is a scattered Carib village and communication is difficult because they are isolated: “We promise to rectify the situation as fast as possible.”At present, reported cases of malaria in Guyana are somewhere near 8000. Reported cases are constantly fluctuating but cases of underreporting may seem to be higher, with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reporting that there were nearly 45 per cent underreported cases in 2013 and 2014, nationally.PAHO had stated in a report which compiled 50 years of health in Guyana, that the country’s tropical climate, high rainfall, and marshy conditions cause malaria to consistently pose a threat to the population. The report indicated that from the thousands of reported cases at the beginning of the National Malaria Eradication Programme in 1959, only 72 cases were reported in 1974.In 1991, there were 41,000 cases reported; the numbers increased to a little more than 84,000 in 1995. Thereafter, annual cases were consistently around 30,000 up to 2004. But suddenly there was a drop between 2007 and 2009, where reported cases were at their lowest.There have been increases annually afterward.Panning increases malaria.Malaria transmission has always been tied to movement of persons from the coast travelling to the hinterland regions to engage in economic activity associated with the extractive industries of gold, diamond and lumber.PAHO had indicated that whenever there is an increase in the price of gold on the world market, there is a concomitant increase in the number of malaria cases, as a greater number of Coastlanders travel to the malaria endemic regions for the purpose of mining, thereby a greater number of the population is exposed to malaria.