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At A Moment’s Notice

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11951934_880323585336869_4909493474565768047_nCoral Harbour Base, 3 Sept 2015 (RBDF): It was on a Thursday shortly before 8 p.m. when my cell phone rang. I looked at my phone for a brief second, thoughts began racing through my mind as I recognized the number and then I answered feverishly, “Hello?”. It was my senior on the other end of the line with a sound of relief in his voice, he replied.

“Good! You answered. I need you to make your way out at the port at midnight. You will join the ships company to slip harbor tonight in a couple hours for seven days to document the patrol. Have a safe trip and he hung up.

As I received my orders my heart skipped a beat and with no one else around to verify whether or not this reality was a dream or this dream was a reality, I had to just stop take a deep breath and relax. Even though the orders came hard and fast, I was eager to go out to sea. I was waiting on the opportunity to do my part as we prepared for the storm. I was ready to help prepare and protect my country, our country.

What should have been a typical 24-hour shift lined with fatigues to complete in the morning, suddenly became anything but typical. But what was I to expect? The Bahamas was in its first trimester of its hurricane season and Tropical Storm Erika was due to make landfall that upcoming weekend.

As a Marine Seaman on the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, it has definitely been a new experience for me. A marine can be called at a moment’s notice to perform his duties. That’s just the nature of the organization. Therefore, being in a constant state of readiness is crucial. However, in addition to individual preparedness, organizational preparedness is also important and this hurricane season showed me just how prepared we, the Defence Force, are in times of potential disaster.

As I followed the updates of Tropical Storm Erika, I learned that The Bahamas was lined up perfectly like bowling pins for a clean strike in hurricane alley. I saw citizens and residents making final attempts to protect life and secure property. Supermarket aisles were packed, store shelves were emptied, home cupboards were filled and anticipation for the oncoming tropical storm grew.

All the while, we at the Royal Bahamas Defence Force were also making preparations of our own. Though faced with a potential disaster, we took numerous precautions under the direction of Captain Tellis Bethel, the Commander Defence Force (Acting), and his command team to help safeguard our country and stood ready to provide assistance at a moment’s notice.

Subsequently, Advance Teams were dispatched ahead of the storm to various islands such as Mayaguana, Governor’s Harbour and Abaco to assist with the coordination and preparation of hurricane relief efforts. Impact Teams were standing by ready to provide immediate support to pre-defined Advance Teams and affected Family Islands for road, airport, and harbour clearing along with restoration of the basic utilities following the passing of the storm.

Defence Force Hurricane Shelter Managers were ready to be stationed at 25 shelters throughout New Providence. Standby Security and Urban Search and Rescue Teams were also established to provide immediate security assistance to shelter managers and local communities, in the event of security threats or missing persons. Teams were also formed to assist families of Defence Force personnel who were abroad and about to face the wrath of Tropical Storm Erika.

Marines were assigned to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to assist with the coordination of national hurricane relief efforts. Defence Force patrol crafts were dispatched to various locations throughout the Bahama chain of Islands, where they prepared for the aftermath of the storm.

Military Police Personnel were stationed at key Government and foreign diplomat facilities in New Providence to provide necessary security. Hurricane Platoons were also standing by to provide further support with hurricane mitigation efforts during and after the storm in Nassau and the Family Islands.

We seemed to have covered all the major areas of concern. Most people didn’t see any of it, but while the average Bahamian was on alert for Tropical Storm Erika making landfall, Defence Force marines were already out to sea and on the various family islands anticipating the potential disaster, positioning themselves for what was to come.

In a turn of events, Tropical Storm Erika, instead of striking The Bahamas, decided to throw a curve ball, swung around our archipelago and eventually dissipated. However, this provided the Defence Force with an opportunity to put our hurricane plan of action under a microscope, allowing us to identify both our strengths and our weaknesses for the next call of duty. This will undoubtedly enhance our plan of execution in the future if needed.

As some of the country’s best trained assets, sufficient gratitude cannot be expressed to the Defence Force marines who continuously and selflessly render their service towards our country’s defence, wherever and whenever called. Leaving your family behind is never easy at such a time, so I can tell my fellow brothers in arms thank you for your service because you are keeping my loved ones safe also as I am to yours.

The families of marines must also be acknowledged for their continued support of their loved ones during such times, as these brave men and women of the Defence Force are deployed to safeguard our heritage. Many of us were far from our families and homes, but as a nation, you did not allow us to be far from your thoughts and prayers.

Thank you to all our supporters. Your support and well wishes are always appreciated.

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Caribbean News

TCI Sport delegation visits the Cayman Islands and Barbados with key sport leaders

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TCI Sports Commission delegation traveled to the Cayman Islands and Barbados to visit with key Sport leaders. The TCI delegation included the Sports Commission Director, Mr. Jarrett Forbes, Deputy Director, Mr. Alvin Parker, and Facility Manager for Providenciales, Mr. Darian Forbes. The aim of the travel was to visit major facilities, with priorities being pool facilities, and discuss sport development strategies.

The team had the pleasure of being hosted by the Deputy Chief Officer for Sport, Dr. Dalton Walter, and the Director of Sports, Mr. Kurt Hyde in the Cayman Islands; who facilitated the facility tours and shared valuable information on Sports Development. Meetings were held with Deputy Chief Officer Ms. Joan West and Technical Director for the Cayman Islands Aquatics Sport Association, Mr. Jacky Pellerin, on the Cayman Islands’ new 50-meter and 25 meter 10 lanes Mrytha pool facility, as well as with Ms. Shakeina Bush from the National Olympic Office on National Federation development and funding opportunities. The Sports Commission delegation was also grateful for the courtesy call with the Minister of Sport for the Cayman Islands, Hon. Isaac Rankine, and the Chief Officer Ms. Teresa Echenique.

During the Barbados leg of the exploratory travel, the Sports Commission team was hosted by the Director of the National Sports Council, Mr. Neil Murrell, and the Assistant Director of Sports, Mr. Ryan Toppin. The TCI team toured the National Sport Council facilities and visited the Barbados National Olympic Association. Significant to the TCI’s plan to develop an aquatic center, the TCI Sports Commission visited the Barbados Aquatic Sport Association and met with former National Olympic Academy Director, Mr. Dave Farmer, and the President and Second Vice President of the Barbados Swim Association, Mr. Robert Armstrong and Mr. Nicholas Mathis. Insights were shared regarding swimming pool design, development and maintenance as well as pool programming strategies to ensure the growth and sustainability of swimming in the islands.

The TCI delegation also visited other stadium facilities such as Track and Field, Football and Cricket, and other major facilities in Basketball and Boxing. The TCI Sport Commission officials had great discussions with both the Cayman Islands and Barbados sports officials surrounding the development of coaches, athlete development pathways, and strengthening relationships with National Sport Governing Bodies.

Director of Sports, Mr. Jarrett Forbes, said, “We were very grateful for the hospitality and support extended by our Caribbean colleagues. Their support affirmed the commitment and unity among the Caribbean community to develop sports in the region.”

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Bahamas News

PM Davis: Loftus Roker embodied the ideals of a statesman

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By ERIC ROSE
Bahamas Information Services

Hon. Philip Davis


NASSAU, The Bahamas
– During his remarks at the state funeral for the Hon. A. Loftus Roker, on May 31, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis raised the question as to what was a statesman, as all in attendance reflected on the life and legacy of “one of The Bahamas’ most distinguished public servants.”

“A statesman is not merely a politician; rather, he is one who, with vision and courage, shapes the destiny of his nation for generations to come,” Prime Minister Davis said, during the event held at Christ Church Cathedral.  “Loftus Roker embodied these ideals through every chapter of his remarkable life.”

“Born in the humble surroundings of Delectable Bay, Acklins, Loftus’s journey was one marked by resilience, determination, and a profound commitment to justice and national progress,” he added.  “His parents, farmers who also engaged in fishing, instilled in him the value of education and hard work – an ethos that defined his entire career.”

Prime Minister said that Mr. Roker’s tenure as Minister of National Security and Immigration was characterized by his “bold and transformative” policies.

“His leadership during this pivotal time was not only about enforcing laws but about defending the sovereignty and welfare of our nation,” he noted.  “He was an unapologetic ambassador for our sovereignty, a voice of moral clarity in the cacophony of political discourse. When he spoke, we listened, we paused, and we often re-evaluated our approaches.”

Prime Minister Davis added:  “Beyond his public roles, Mr. Roker was a guardian of our historical integrity and a protector of many insightful political secrets – some of which he took to the grave. His candor was legendary; it was his trademark and his gift to us. He never shied away from telling the truth, however uncomfortable it might be, choosing integrity over convenience every time. I, too, was a recipient of his forthright critiques – a testament to his commitment to the party he loved and the ideals he upheld.”

Presentation of National Flag to family by PM Davis

Prime Minister Davis noted that, reflecting on his “incredible” journey and contributions, they recalled his early foray into politics – “a daring run for office before he was legally old enough to do so.”

“This bold move was not just a youthful transgression, but a declaration of his readiness to serve and lead, setting the stage for his lifelong dedication to our nation’s governance,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that it was his profound privilege to stand with Mr. Roker in Pompey Bay, Acklins, in August of 2023, where his Government recognized his lifelong service to The Bahamas by renaming the Acklins Central High School in his honour.

“This act not only commemorated his legacy, but also reconnected it with the soil of his birthplace – tying the past with the present in celebration of a life well-lived,” he stated.

Prime Minister Davis added: “Today, as we honor Loftus Roker, we ask again: What is a statesman? He was a statesman because he was unafraid in his honesty, and unyielding in his principles. He navigated the complexities of leadership with a rare blend of toughness and grace, ensuring his voice was heard, his presence felt, and his vision realized.

“So, what can we learn from Loftus Roker’s approach to politics and life? His life teaches us about the courage to speak the truth, the duty to protect our sovereignty, and the integrity to maintain our moral clarity.  He was a true gentleman, a wise counselor, and a fearless leader.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, as they said farewell to “this stalwart of Bahamian history”, they should remember his indomitable spirit and his profound contributions to their beloved nation.  Mr. Roker’s legacy, he added, will continue to inspire and guide us, reminding us of the impact one dedicated individual can have on the destiny of a nation.

“Again, I ask, who is a statesman? He is Loftus Roker – a man whose life answered that question resoundingly,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “May his story continue to inspire us, and may his wisdom light our paths forward.”

Governor General, HE the Most Hon. Dame Cynthia Pratt

“He was not just a part of our history; he helped to write it,” Prime Minister added.  “As we mourn his passing, we also celebrate the indelible mark he has left on our hearts and our nation.”

He stated that Mr. Roker’s memory will continue to inspire, his deeds will guide future generations, and his vision will always “illuminate the path forward.”

“Farewell, my friend. You have taught us much, and your story will continue to teach future Bahamians about the essence of true leadership,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “Rest assured, the pages of history will remember you; you have written your story well.”

“May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your arrival, and lead you to the Holy City Jerusalem,” he added.  “May you rest in peace.”

Prime Minister Davis continued: “On behalf of a grateful nation, my wife Ann-Marie; Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. I. Chester Cooper and his wife ; my cabinet and parliamentary colleagues, and on my own behalf, I express heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Roker, the Roker family and all those who loved him on the passing of this great patriarch.

“May he rest in peace.”

 

(BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)

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Health

Food Safety: Prepare for the Unexpected

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World Food Safety Day 2024

 

Foodborne diseases (FBDs) remain a public health concern in the Caribbean and across the world, with one in 10 people worldwide falling ill from contaminated food each year[1]. Increasing numbers of FBD cases and outbreaks have been reported across CARPHA Members States (CMS), especially in the tourism and cruise ship industry.  FBDs can cause morbidity, mortality, and economic burden of countries; it can also pose significant economic, social, and reputational impact on trade and tourism.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) joins the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) to commemorate World Food Safety Day on June 7th.  The theme for 2024 “Food safety: prepare for the unexpected” reiterates that food safety is a collective responsibility, and everyone needs to play their part.  

 At all levels, we must be prepared to intervene if food safety is compromised, such as:

  • Governments can update national food safety emergency response plans, strengthen national food control systems, increase surveillance and coordination capacities, and improve communication.
  • Food businesses can improve food safety management plans, collaborate, and share lessons learnt and improve communication with consumers.
  • Consumers can ensure they know how to report or respond to a food safety incident.

Dr. Lisa Indar, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Division at CARPHA stated that “Food safety is crucial for supporting economic productivity in the tourism dependent, vastly culinary diverse Caribbean region.   CARPHA is contributing to regional food security through improving food borne diseases surveillance and food safety in its 26 Member States.”

In a 2021 WHO study, the incidence of FBD was 1 in 11 during the mass gathering events, such as cricket matches, carnival, food festivals, etc.[2] With this in mind and as the Caribbean is hosting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup (May/June 2024), CARPHA continues to be proactive and lead the regional public health response.  The Agency has collaborated with both health and tourism stakeholders of the six Caribbean Cricket World Cup (CWC) host nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago) to strengthen surveillance, early warning and response, laboratory, health, prevention and control and food safety capacity in preparation for CWC and other mass gathering events.

During this preparatory phase from February to May 2024, almost 900 food vendors likely to be selling food at the cricket stadiums/and its environs, were trained in Food Safety for Food Handlers for Mass Gathering Events. Additionally, a Mass Gathering Surveillance System was developed and implemented to capture the six internationally recognised potential syndromes, which includes gastroenteritis.

To adequately address FBD and food safety in the Caribbean, CARPHA is implementing an integrated foodborne diseases program, integrating the epidemiological, laboratory, environmental and veterinary aspects of FBD surveillance and response, into a coordinated programmatic approach, regionally and nationally. Its components of surveillance, training, capacity building, outbreak investigation, research, preparation and control, are addressing FBD in a wholistic manner to promote food safety in the Region. CARPHA has also trained and certified over 500 persons in nine of its Member States in advanced food safety and has developed a suite of hospitality, health, food safety and environmental standards, to provide a basis for the development of an effective food safety program for the hospitality industry.

CARPHA remains committed to working with partners and Member States to strengthen regional food safety through multi-sectoral collaboration, capacity building activities, exchange of information and communication.

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