MOH is committed to providing full support to those affected by Mahdia fire tragedy

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is committed to fulfilling all the needs of the victims and relatives affected by the fire that destroyed the girl’s dormitory at the Mahdia Secondary School that claimed the lives of 19 children. We express our deepest sympathies to the families who lost loved ones in this disaster.

A tragedy has occurred in our country and there is a need for a concerted effort. The medical and mental health situations represent an urgent challenge. The MOH is deeply grateful to all the private groups and international bodies that have offered and have been providing support in the medical, mental health and other social support responses.

We strongly urge all the local private groups that are offering support for the medical and mental health responses to coordinate and integrate their efforts with the national programme. Working separately can create duplication, and confusion and more harm than good can result from independent efforts.

A national mental health response backed by highly reputable international partners and based on World Health Organisation (WHO)-validated guidelines and evidence-based interventions have been put in place. The national programme can benefit and be strengthened by all organisations with a genuine desire to help collaborate and work together.

Efforts that are not in collaboration with and integrated as part of the national efforts are counter-productive. The MOH knows the intense and generous desire of many organizations to make a meaningful contribution as our nation rallies to the crisis in Mahdia. We, therefore, appeal to every individual and every organisation that wants to play a role in the national mental health response to work and integrate their efforts through the MOH.    

The MOH is presently working with partners such as PAHO/WHO, UNICEF, Mount Sinai, Northwell and Columbia University as we put together a comprehensive, acute, short-term, medium-term and long-term mental health response programme built on a strong Psychological First-Aid (PFA) and Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) response.

Outside of the public health capacity, support from international partners and local partners is critical for the effectiveness of PFA and SPR. In this context, the MOH welcomes the offer of support from partners, both local and international, as we deliver a national comprehensive evidence-based response to those most in need.  

Guyanese are assured that the MoH continues to support the survivors and their families to provide dedicated care wherever needed. We finalised a needs assessment with relatives and community leaders. The MoH will spare no effort to provide the required assistance to help them to face these difficult times. We are dedicating all resources necessary to prioritise the full recovery of the students currently hospitalized and to ensure that relatives receive the help they require to cope with the loss of lives.

We are currently assisting with Psychological First-Aid through counselling for relatives of those who perished and the wider student population and faculty of the Mahdia Secondary School. We are also transporting relatives from Region Eight so that they can be with their loved ones who are receiving treatment in Georgetown. Additionally, food, clothing and other supplies are being provided to the community through efforts by various Ministries and organisations, coordinated by the Military.

In light of several speculations circulating on the welfare and well-being of the students hospitalized and their families, especially on social media, we urge all Guyanese not to spread theories and speculation regarding the fire, its causes, its consequences and the pain and suffering relatives are facing. The next weeks will be crucial for local communities and families to recover their physical and psychological health. Let us all focus on supporting the grieving families and children, the teachers and first responders who were at the scene, who are going through unimaginable pain.

We urge both the formal media and social media influencers to be sensitive to the challenge we face. The MOH cannot prevent persons from reporting or publishing social media events that are real or rumoured. But we urge that caution be practised.

We are available twenty-four hours if verification of events is needed. As far as possible, we will share information. Some of the times, we have to be sparing with the information we provide. We ask that the media trust us and that they respect the need for confidentiality and privacy.

Mental health teams are providing support in Georgetown to all the affected families that must be in Georgetown at this time. In addition, expanded mental health teams are in Mahdia and Region 8. These teams are under the supervision of the MOH.

Private individuals and organisations who are desirous of helping can contact us and we will integrate such individuals and organizations into the interventions occurring in Georgetown and Mahdia and other parts of the country. 

In reporting mental health issues, we ask the media and social media influencers to be particularly sensitive to information shared. We all have the interest of the people in Mahdia and the villages of Region Eight as priorities. In reporting on certain matters, there are international guidelines. Please adhere to these guidelines. Reporting must be shaped by factors such as concern for grieving families; attempting to balance public interest and privacy; challenges to accessing the facts of a story.

Finally, we reiterate our plea to individuals and organisations to coordinate support and efforts with the national programme.

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