civil society and “community relays” on the front lines against Covid-19

Nathalie Augusto is an Indian resident of Saint-Georges, who worked as a “community relay” with the association! Dsanté.

For the first two weeks, I went from door to door with another “community relay”, to tell people that they could go to test and inform them about the epidemic in general, the gestures obstacles, and so on. Then a person from the health sector followed us to offer the elderly to take the test directly at home. It was generally someone from the metropolitan region of France who came to work in Guyana for two weeks. I often had to translate, because some residents do not speak French, but Portuguese, Creole or even Palikur – my mother tongue.

Screening place in the village of Espérance 1, in Saint-Georges, with two nurses and two “community relays”. Photo sent by Nathalie Augusto.

Photo 1: Nathalie Augusto, another “community relay” and a leader of the association! Dsante, preparing to walk from door to door in the town of Maripa, in Saint-Georges. Photo 2: two “community relays” mobilized in the village of Espérance in Saint-Georges. Photos submitted by Nathalie Augusto.

We have also distributed food kits[accordingtothesub-prefect’sfoodneeds[selonlasous-préfètelesbesoinsalimentairessont[enligtunderprefektenärmatbehovet[selonlasous-préfètelesbesoinsalimentairessont“Generalized” in Guyana, editor’s note]and health kits, which include cloth masks, soap, but also sanitary napkins and condoms.

Preparation of rates, for the residents of Saint-Georges. Photo sent by Nathalie Augusto.

Most of the locals were quite receptive to our messages, but others were more suspicious or made fun of us. Some have said to us: “The virus will not kill us”, “We will not catch it if we drink alcohol”, “The virus is afraid of hot” … I think the hardest to convince were they in my community because they tend to think that they can find a cure for the virus themselves. In general, many people initially believed that the virus did not exist, that it was an invention, but that changed when the first cases were identified. Our contract ended about two weeks ago, for almost all residents who wanted to be tested favored the unit. Overall, I felt helpful, most of the locals understood that we were there to help them.

Regarding the distrust of some residents, Dr. Bastien Bidaud adds:

Guyana is a patchwork quilt of very different ethnicities, cultures, languages, habitats and socio-economic contexts. Not everyone responds to preventative messages the same way. Not everyone has the same view of the body or the disease. Some have a highly developed magical-religious universe. All this makes prevention and information work more difficult, even though we are used to working with cultural mediators and “going to”.

Nurses and facilitator from! The Dsanté Association in Trois Paletuviers, an area north of Saint-Georges. Photo sent by Nathalie Augusto.

According to Bastien Bidaud, 421 positive cases have been identified in Saint-Georges (about 9% of the population). But he noted a “reduction in the number of positive cases and consultations for suspected Covid-19 over the past two or three weeks”.

Total since early March 5949 positive cases has been counted throughout Guyana, where 26 people have already died from Covid-19. The three hospitals in the region are saturated: they therefore launched a “white plan” in early July to mobilize all possible human and material resources in the fight against the epidemic, the peak of which is expected in mid-July.

IN platform published in Le Monde on Monday, Christiane Taubira, the former justice minister, born in Guyana, condemned the fact that public services “were not on a par with republican equality” in the region, and that it was “the price of thirty years of carelessness in public health policy”.

Article written by Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).