In an effort to eradicate the mosquito-borne disease filaria, the Government, through the Public Health Ministry, will be spending over US$1 million in pills and sensitisation procedures this year.Filaria pill distribution process ongoingThis was related by Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence during a recent interview. Although the Minister was unable to say specifically how much money was being spent on the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programme, which was currently being rolled out in four administrative regions, she noted that the Ministry would invest all it had to, to protect its citizens.At the launch of the MDA programme earlier this month, Senior Health Officer Quincy Jones disclosed that each year about US$1 million was spent on the distribution process.Lawrence said, “This year we’re on that push to ensure that we can eradicate filaria from Guyana. It’s a big project for the Ministry of Public Health, we believe that we can do it and we have invested more money with the help of our partners PAHO/WHO (Pan American Organisation/World Health Organisation).”It was in the same breath that the subject Minister sought to explain how the additional money was being spent. According to her, “We have had quite a lot of educational pieces, educating people so that persons wouldn’t get caught up with the rumours and people (who are) just saying things without evidence.”Lawrence reported that so far the MDA programme, which officially began two Mondays ago, has been successful as locals were more interested in taking the pills to prevent the dreaded disease from affecting their lymphatic glands, causing the legs, breasts and even penis to swell, which was often referred to as “goadie”, with the disease often called “big foot”.The Minister said although some were excited to take the pills, others were more concerned about the side effects. As a result, she noted that more information would be provided for locals on the side effects, which are mild, as well as the benefits of consuming the tablets.The four regions benefiting from the free pills – albendazole and diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC) – are Regions Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Four (Demerara-Mahaica); Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) as these were found to be the most affected Regions in a survey conducted by the Ministry a few years ago.The number of tablets will vary per age, and they are not to be given to pregnant women and children below the age of two years old. It is said that a person requires five annual doses of the pills before they become immune to the mosquito-borne disease.Although the pills are being distributed in these four Regions, a Senior Health Officer had assured that the Ministry has not forgotten about the other regions.“Whilst we enjoy the success of the past year and buckle down to the challenges of this year to continually roll out the MDA programme within these four Regions that is currently undertaking, I urge the members of the public and the media to know that the other Regions … are not forgotten,” Jones pointed out.Persons are being urged by the Ministry to take the pills as they will prevent the spread of lymphatic filaria which has no signs or symptoms during the first 10 years a person is infected.It was disclosed during the launch of the MDA programme that epidemiology coverage has improved from 45.7 per cent in 2015, to 54.42 per cent in 2016 as only two Regions received the pills back in 2015, and the Government was able to extend the pill distribution to four in 2016.This was still, however, no major achievement for the country as the pass mark for coverage percentage was 65 per cent, according to PAHO/WHO. The country was finally able to achieve this last year, achieving 86 per cent epidemiology coverage.
When Milton Tootoosis thinks about the planned exoneration of Chief Poundmaker, he breaks down.A headman and councillor at Poundmaker Cree Nation, about a two-hour drive from Saskatoon, Tootoosis says absolving the chief of any guilt in a battle with federal forces almost 135 years ago makes him think about the resiliency of his people.“Our people went through a lot,” Tootoosis, choking back tears, said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.“A lot of hurt. A lot of anger. A lot of mistrust.”Tootoosis has been part of an effort that he says has spanned years to press Ottawa to exonerate Poundmaker.That’s finally set to happen on Thursday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the First Nation.“It’s not about the prime minister,” Tootoosis said. “This is about Chief Poundmaker. It’s about a great leader, a diplomat, a peacekeeper, who saved a lot of lives when he took action into his own hands.”Poundmaker, whose Cree name was Pitikwahanapiwiyin, was born in 1842 near Battleford, Sask.The First Nation that bears his name remembers his legacy as that of a political leader who was critical of Treaty 6 while it was being negotiated and spoke up for the plight of his people under the federal government.On May 2, 1885, in the Battle of Cut Knife Hill, Col. William Otter and members of the North West Mounted Police attacked a camp established by First Nations in the area.“The idea that there was a plan to exterminate us is unthinkable,” said Tootoosis, his voice shaking with emotion.The First Nations pushed the attacking forces back and Poundmaker intervened to stop warriors from going after the retreating troops.“He was unfairly labelled as a rebel,” said Russell Fayant, who teaches Indigenous history and Metis culture at the University of Regina.“He was a peacemaker who urged his people to have reserve and to not attack.”Poundmaker was tried in Regina for treason and was sentenced to three years at Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba.“Really, that conviction was about ‘let’s put an Indian in jail so that Canadians can see that we’ve sent somebody to jail,’” said Fayant.Poundmaker was released in 1886 because of poor health and died that same year.Tootoosis said while many elders and people in the region consider Poundmaker a peacemaker, history has painted him as a traitor.He and others believe the exoneration is a chance to set the record straight.“The broader public needs to know.”Fayant said it also forces Canadians to see another version of history and correct past misinterpretations.“What is the Indigenous side of the story?”Fayant believes Poundmaker’s absolution could reignite discussions about the legacies of other First Nations and Metis leaders from the 1885 NorthWest Rebellion and uprising. Those figures include Cree Chief Big Bear as well as Louis Riel.The ceremony on Thursday will include an apology from Trudeau.“Advancing reconciliation is a priority for the prime minister and our government, and a vital part of that work is addressing the injustices of past colonial governments,” said Eleanore Catenaro, spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office.Last November, Trudeau apologized to the Tsilhqot’in community in British Columbia for the hanging of six chiefs more than 150 years ago and delivered an “statement of exoneration” in the House of Commons.While he believes the ceremony will be emotional and even surreal, Tootoosis said his First Nation still has grievances with the Crown over full treaty implementation.Poundmaker’s words about the treaties still ring true today, he said.“Attempts to exterminate our rights, our treaty rights, our inherent Aboriginal treaty rights, is ongoing.”Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press