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Bahamas Minister of National Security Opens Stan Patrol User Group Meeting

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#Bahamas, November 18, 2017 – Nassau – Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames on Wednesday thanked the organizers and sponsors of the 3rd Annual Stan Patrol User Group (SPUG) Meeting, and associated events and all of the presenters and participants whom, over the following two days “will have the opportunity to discuss and share experiences in the operation and maintenance of these vessels that play a pivotal role in the execution of our individual and collective mandates, in maritime law enforcement, search and rescue of lives at sea and disaster relief and recovery, to name a few.”

“My government remains committed to safeguarding the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and this is evidenced through a number of initiatives including the procurement of more than nine patrol craft since 2014; continued development and improvement of military bases here on the island of New Providence, Matthew Town Inagua, and Gun Point, Ragged Island,” Minister Dames noted, at the Official Opening Ceremony, held at the Paul H. Farquharson Conference Centre.

Among those present for the Opening were Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Tellis Bethel, Director of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Captain Stephen Russell, and Conference Chairperson Captain Adrian Chriswell.

IMG_6644(1)Taking part in the two-day meeting were representatives from the following: Barbados Defence Force; Belize Defence Force; Canadian Coast Guard; Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard; Ecuador’s Armada del Ecuador; Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard; Mexico’s Secretaria de Marina; Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard; other Officers, Warrant Officers and Senior Rates of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; and Conference Sponsors – Damen, Pon Power Caterpillar and Alphatron Marine.

Minister Dames said that he was pleased to note the inclusion of The Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency at that edition of SPUG, as the lead agency in The Bahamas for the coordination of disaster preparation, relief and recovery.

“NEMA works closely with the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and regional and international agencies in the coordination and execution of pre-, peri- and post- disaster relief efforts,” he said.

As an archipelagic nation, Minister Dames pointed out, The Bahamas relies heavily on maritime assets to enhance the interconnectivity of the islands.

“To provide a bit of historical background, on March 31, 1980, the RBDF was created to patrol and guard over 100,000 square miles and 2,000 rocks and cays of territorial boundaries initially monitored and guarded by the Royal Navy prior before our Independence in 1973,” he said.

“Since the inception of the RBDF over 37 years ago, the Force has grown and transitioned into an inclusive sea, air and land based military with a modernised fleet of vessels,” Minister Dames added.   “With a primary mission to defend the sovereignty of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and an encompassing mission of assisting other law enforcement agencies as required, the RBDF is also mandated to perform humanitarian tasks, at home and abroad.”

With the requirement to expand the operations of the RBDF into the Family Islands, Minister Dames said, The Bahamas Government approved the capital investment for the Sandy Bottom Project in 2014 with the Dutch shipbuilding company, Damen, and the Dutch Dredging company, Van Oord.   Nine of the vessels built by Damen had been delivered, he continued, eight of which have been commissioned into service; and the dredging works and quay wall construction projects by Van Oord Bahamas were nearing completion.

Minister Dames said that he was advised that the first User Conference was initiated by the Coast Guard for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean (KWCARIB) three years ago in Curacao, and was attended by seven countries – Jamaica, Honduras, Mexico, The Bahamas, Barbados, the USA and the KWCARIB.

“Their exchanges and shared experiences on the use of their larger patrol vessels was significant and the conference has continued to grow, with some 13 member countries, nine of which are represented today,” he said.

The objective of that initial meeting was to subsequently transfer knowledge concerning operations, maintenance, engineering, design, logistics and customer relations between Damen vessel owners to further enhance the reliability of the Stan Patrol vessels, Minister Dames said.

“Initiator KWCARIB is one of the oldest users of this type of vessel,” he noted. “Damen – design, build, Pon Power Caterpillar – engines and powerplant – and Alphatron Marine – bridge components – supported the discussions. The intention is to hold this conference annually, alternating between the national Coastguards, Defence Forces, Navies, and now, with the addition of Montserrat to the group, Police Marine Units.”

It was not fortuitous that The Bahamas had consented to co-hosting the current event for several reasons, Minister Dames noted.

“Firstly, our newly acquired fleet of vessels are all Damen built and are powered by Caterpillar and Alphatron Marine components; secondly, and unfortunately, during the past three years, The Bahamas has not been spared the wrath of disastrous Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew and Irma, of which each individually caused extensive damage to some part of the archipelago, inclusive of New Providence in 2016 which suffered significant damage, including the RBDF Coral Harbour Base, resulting in the cancellation of this event at that juncture,” Minister Dames said.   “Thus, the second iteration of this event was successfully hosted by Mexico instead, for which we were grateful.”

IMG_6670(1)Minister Dames pointed out that, in 2015, the most impactful of those storms to The Bahamas, Joaquin, propelled the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to deploy its Container City, which is a system of Containerized Equipment and Facilities designed to self-sustain troops in a disaster area whilst they effect clean-up, provide humanitarian aid and conduct needed assessments required for recovery and rebuilding.

“This equipment was initially transported utilizing multiple private chartered vessels at significant cost to Government; however, the following year, with the delivery and commissioning of a Damen-built roll-on/roll-off platform HMBS Lawrence Major, the Defence Force realized the capacity to mobilize this equipment, and regrettably had need to, following Hurricane Matthew – which caused extensive damage in the Central Bahamas,” he stated.

“This year, as we continuously forge the way ahead, the RBDF, along with local, regional and international partners, has deployed HMBS Lawrence Major – along with several components of the Container City to the Eastern Caribbean – providing needed humanitarian aid in cooperation with Jamaica and other CARICOM members to our brothers and sisters in Dominica, following the ravages of Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” Minister Dames said.

Minister Dames re-iterated that disaster relief and recovery is heavily dependent on the maritime environment to be facilitated, especially in small island nations, as, following hurricanes, airports are sometimes mostly inaccessible due to infrastructural damage and flooding, and require assessments prior to re-establishing air traffic.

“Maritime assets close this gap by allowing for bulk transport of supplies, man-power, and other required assistance, in an effort to restore normalcy in the shortest possible time,” he said.   “Utilising even the smallest of these Damen platforms, the RBDF has been able to provide assistance in the form of establishing communication hubs, and the provision of potable water and food and medical supplies to residents immediately following the passage of a hurricane.”

Minister Dames said that having the ability to deploy assets simultaneously to multiple affected areas is key to responding in the aftermath of a disastrous storm.    NEMA, as well, had established storage facilities in north, central and southern Bahamas, making the required emergency relief supplies available at multiple locations for ease of transshipment, regardless of which islands are affected, he added.

“Continuing to have these maritime assets Fully Mission Capable, with the ability to respond quickly to provide needed assistance, therefore, is paramount,” Minister Dames said.   “This is achievable with a sustained and proactive approach to maintenance, training and operation, to increase longevity, functionality and utilization of these assets.”

“I am advised that Damen has offered The Bahamas a package which includes a controlled version of maintenance which will enable the RBDF through training to balance attrition of skilled personnel with the development of new technicians, who will ensure that these current assets achieve maximum service life, and beyond,” he added.   “As this is our ultimate goal I can assure you that it will receive my government’s full attention.”

Minister Dames said that he was also advised that resulting from previous SPUG conferences were joint training opportunities that assist in lowering the cost for professional technical training for the operators and maintainers of these vessels to be conducted regionally.

“SPUG is a good example of how Defense, KWCARIB and the Dutch industry can help units in the region to deploy more efficiently and cost effectively in the joint fight against transnational threats, as well as to assist in times of disaster,” he said.

Minister Dames stated that The Government of The Bahamas acknowledged the significance in being a part of those information and experience sharing sessions as beneficial to planning when it does return to “the drawing board” to design more vessels and procure equipment for our particular needs.

“I welcome you all again to The Bahamas and look forward to hearing of your individual experiences with the Stan Patrol Craft,” he said.   “I believe it is important for us to engage in such forums to identify trends and common threads of challenges that we all face, and to be enlightened on how we individually and collectively solve these issues.

“Think-tanks like these, with focus group discussions play a key role in solving global issues, or at least make them known, so that solutions can be found.”

“Finally, as you are here in The Bahamas, do not allow the seriousness of your discussions to dampen the opportunity to partake of the Bahamian hospitality, which you will undoubtedly find all around you,” he added.

By: Eric Rose (BIS)

Photo Captions

Header & 1st insert: Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames speaks during the Official Opening Ceremony of the 3rd Annual Stan Patrol User Group (SPUG) Conference, held at the Paul H. Farquharson Conference Centre, on November 16, 2017.   Pictured seated behind him is Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Tellis Bethel. (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

2nd insert:  International representatives of marine forces and agencies (foreground) attend the Official Opening Ceremony of the 3rd Annual Stan Patrol User Group (SPUG) Conference, held at the Paul H. Farquharson Conference Centre, on November 16, 2017. (BIS Photo/Eric Rose)

 

 

 

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Guys, Have 2 Minutes? Here’s How to Check Yourself for Testicular Cancer

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Testicular cancer is a rare form of cancer for men in The Bahamas.  It is highly curable — if you know it’s there!

 

November 30, 2021 – Men…how often do you perform a self-exam to check yourselves for testicular cancer?

While it’s a relatively rare form of cancer, young men aren’t exempt – in fact, testicular cancer occurs most often in young and middle-aged men. The good news is, it can usually be treated successfully.

The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump on your testicle. But that’s not the only sign of this disease.

Men who have testicular cancer may experience several different kinds of symptoms, says oncologist Timothy Gilligan, MD, a Medical Oncologist at Cleveland Clinic who specializes in treating testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer most frequently strikes men younger than age 44, and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for men ages 15 to 34. It is almost always curable if found early, Dr. Gilligan says, and it is usually curable even when at a later stage. So it’s important to know signs and symptoms.

Here, Dr. Gilligan says, are five possible signs of testicular cancer you might not know about:

5 Testicular Cancer Symptoms That Aren’t a Lump  – Know what to look for and catch it early

  1. A feeling of heaviness or pressure in your scrotum.
  2. Change in testicle size or firmness.Certain types of testicular tumors can reduce testosterone or increase estrogen in the body, which can result in a change in testicle size or firmness.
  3. Swollen legs.When a tumor spreads to the lymph node, it can constrict blood flow in the veins and result in a blood clot. The clots often occur in the legs, which causes them to swell. You might even experience blood clot symptoms such as pain and difficulty breathing.
  4. Lower back pain and shortness of breath.These are symptoms of advanced testicular cancer, meaning the cancer has spread to lymph nodes behind your stomach. Shortness of breath also may signal that the cancer has spread to your lungs, which may make it harder for air to move in and out.
  5. Breast growth or tenderness.In rare cases, hormone changes also can cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue. Some tumors can secrete high levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which stimulates breast development.

If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor right away, Dr. Gilligan says. If your physician diagnoses you with epididymitis or orchitis and the symptoms do not resolve quickly with antibiotics, request an ultrasound to evaluate for a testicular tumor.

“While up to 95 percent of men with testicular cancer are cured, it’s important to get care quickly if you’re experiencing symptoms because testicular cancers usually grow fast,” Dr. Gilligan says. “If there is disease, the earlier it is treated, the greater than chance for success.”

 

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Signs of Recovery in East Grand Bahama Habitats Scarred by Hurricane Dorian

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#TheBahamas, November 30, 2021 – In the pinelands and mangroves that make East Grand Bahama so distinctly unique, nature is replenishing itself from the massive destruction of Hurricane Dorian. The restoration slowly taking shape is evidence that the death and devastation that the massive storm left behind is giving way to new life, according to biodiversity experts and scientists who recently conducted field assessments.

The biodiversity consultants with the Implementing Land, Water and Ecosystems Management (IWEco) in The Bahamas project have concluded a new phase of field surveys in East Grand Bahama. The team assessed pinelands and wetlands, collecting detailed information on the habitats and the life forms they support for a biodiversity inventory that will be published as part of the project.

“We have yet to see a standing pine tree that remains alive. In different types of pine habitats, however, you’re seeing different rates of recovery, with seedlings beginning to be established and these seedlings are typically anywhere from eight to 12 inches tall, and some we’ve seen are two to three feet tall,” Mark Daniels, biodiversity consultant with BRON Ltd. said.

The biodiversity team spent more than a week conducting point counts, walking transects and vegetation plots to better understand the recovery process of pine and wetland areas in East Grand Bahama since Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

“The external fringes of those mangrove systems remain dead. However, in the more protected interior regions of these mangrove patches you are seeing mangroves returning and those creek systems where you have mangrove habitats that are inland and protected from the full force of the sea, are also recovering and looking very healthy,” Daniels said.

The biodiversity team also saw several species of wetland and forest birds as well as endemics like the Bahama Yellowthroat and Bahama Woodstar as well as pine saplings that are growing in areas where the trees were dead. Information on the wildlife in East Grand Bahama will also be included in the biodiversity inventory that will be made public.

“We are seeing a lot more birds in the area but most of them are winter migrants from North America coming to The Bahamas and their presence increases our avian fauna by over 50 per cent,” said Scott Johnson, biodiversity consultant with BRON Ltd. “What’s also interesting is that some of the highest diversity of birds we are seeing is in patches of coppice areas in East Grand Bahama. These birds are occupying sites that have a variety of plant species that are producing flowers and some fruits so they have food resources.”

Although the Bahama Yellowthroat and Bahama Woodstar have been observed in the area, other pineland species of birds have not been seen since Hurricane Dorian in 2019, he added.

“I fear that they may have been extirpated from the East Grand Bahama area. Until that pineland ecosystem comes back which may allow for new immigration of birds in that area, chances are that we may not see Bahama Warblers, Olive-Capped Warblers, or Cuban Emeralds in that area for a while,” Johnson said.

The IWEco The Bahamas project is part of a larger, regional undertaking for the Caribbean funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). For The Bahamas, the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP), the Forestry Unit, the Ministry of Public Works and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust are the leading partners.

The work that is being done towards creating a biodiversity inventory is pivotal as it will not only benefit the natural environment but involve citizens more closely in sustaining it. East Grand Bahama has a diverse ecosystem in its plant and animal life as well as its habitats. Investigating and gathering a record of all these life forms is a key part of developing the systems and driving the adaptation to make the environment stronger.

“The Biodiversity Inventory conducted under the IWEco project and its respective findings show significant signs of ecosystem regeneration, and therefore signs of hope as it relates to Hurricane Dorian recovery,” said IWEco The Bahamas National Project Coordinator Melissa Ingraham. “The inventory, amongst other project aspects, such as the development of an ecotourism sector and capacity building opportunities will be incorporated into a watershed management plan to sustainably guide resource use and management at a community based level.”

The project aims to develop and implement of integrated systems that support ecosystem health and strengthen national monitoring and evaluation systems. Other goals include policy, legislative and institutional reforms to increase capacity for sustainable natural resource management and deepening the knowledge that is key for effective stakeholder involvement.

 

Header: Gathering information for the biodiversity inventory from the pineland forest near West Gap Creek.

1st Insert: These dead mangroves at Ridge Creek are among the lingering signs of Hurricane Dorian’s trek across East Grand Bahama.

2nd insert: Members of the IWEco The Bahamas biodiversity team visit the mangroves at Ridge Creek where there are signs of recovery.

 

Press Release: IWECO

 

 

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MOSSUD to adopt ‘You are Somebody’ Programme in early 2022

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#TheBahamas, November 30, 2021 – Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Obadiah Wilchcombe said his Ministry will adopt the “You are Somebody” Programme within the first quarter of the year 2022 as a means of ensuring that the community of persons with disabilities are included in all aspects of society.

Minister Wilchcombe was addressing the Church Service held (Sunday, November 28 at Living Waters Kingdom Ministries) to officially launch Disability Awareness Week in The Bahamas. The Week runs November 27 to December 4 under the theme: ‘Inclusion for All.’

Inclusion, Minister Wilchcombe said, has been more of a word, than an action.

“The Bible tells us that our gifts open doors,” Minister Wilchcombe told his inhouse and virtual audience. “The Bible didn’t say that you have to be able or living with a disability; the Bible says that all of us have gifts and that we should all utilize our gifts, and leadership must do what it can to lift those gifts and make them useful for communities, for societies, for our country.

“My purpose here today is to tell you that over the next several months, all of the things you thought were left, were gathering dust, will be lifted, will become part of the dialogue in this country and will become a part of the action taken by the Ministry responsible for Social Services and Urban Development (to ensure inclusion). I thank you. I appreciate you. You are somebody.”

Speaking formally for the very first time (outside of the House of Assembly) as Minister regarding one of the units that fall under his remit, Minister Wilchcombe told members of the community that the “You are Somebody” Programme (the name is adopted from the words of U.S Civil Rights icon, the Reverend Jesse Jackson) will help to address some of the many issues still facing the community of persons with disabilities in The Bahamas.

“I have a difficulty with the fact that so many of you, in general, feel marginalized; I have a difficulty because you are not to be considered separate and different in our communities; I have  a difficulty because inclusion has been more of a word than action, that there is still discrimination, that we have not done some of the things that we were supposed to do legislatively; that you still do not have transportation that you ought to have.

“We still have not created the Foundation that was intended to raise funding. The truth is we have not fulfilled the agenda, we have not done what we ought to have done, and so I have come to tell you that my Ministry will be adopting, in the first quarter of next year, a simple programme for the disabled and the programme will be titled –  and I borrow the words of Jesse Jackson – ‘You are Somebody’ and we will do all we must to ensure that you are included.”

Minister Wilchcombe said the Ministry will “lead by example.”

“I am going to ensure that at the Ministry itself, that we lead by example. Those who wish to discriminate and do not wish to provide jobs and employment, well I don’t see why you can’t be receptionists; I don’t see why you can’t be working throughout the Ministry; I don’t see why the Ministry cannot set the example and cause others to follow. And so, we shall lead. My purpose is to ensure that you have an appreciation that you are loved, and that you are appreciated,”

Minister Wilchcombe also shared the stories of his brother, Richard, whom he said is autistic, and his best friend, a female, who spent most of her life in a wheelchair.

“What I found most interesting about both is that they have never been excluded, always included, always individuals who were present with incredible capacity, talent – in fact my brother always teases me that he can do things I can’t,” Minister Wilchcombe added.

 

By Matt Maura

BIS

 

 Photo Captions: 

Header: Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Obadiah Wilchcombe addressing Sunday’s Church Service that officially launched Disability Awareness Week in The Bahamas. The Church Service was held at Living Waters Kindom Ministries. The Week runs November 27 – December 4.

1st insert: Bahamas Ambassador to CARICOM, Her Excellency Leslie Miller-Brice (third left), joined the community of persons with disabilities for Sunday’s Church Service launching Disability Awareness Week in The Bahamas.  Her Excellency is pictured with (from left): Mr. Kendrick Rolle, Disability Affairs Division; Miss Christina Fernander, Secretariat, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities; Mrs. Desire Clarke, Deputy Secretary, Secretariat, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (to Her Excellency’s left); Mrs. Annette Lunn, Sign Language Interpreter/Community of Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing; Mr. Kelvin Lunn and Miss Tamera Lunn.

2nd insert: Mrs. Annette Lunn provides Sign Language Interpretation for the community of persons who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing during Sunday’s Church Service. Sign Language Interpreters help to bridge the communication gap for the community. Sign Languages are an extremely important communications tool for members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)

 

 

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