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CARPHA urges Member States to continue vaccine coverage while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic

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#Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 29 April 2020.  Although there is no vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), vaccinations against seasonal influenza and measles are available to prevent respiratory illness and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. If vaccination programmes are not continued, more people are likely to get sick from vaccine-preventable diseases, thus increasing the burden on the already strained health systems.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.  The virus is transmitted mainly via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, or when people interact with each other for some time in close proximity (usually less than two metres). 

Given the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Caribbean region, it is important that people take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.   Because the virus is new and different it requires its own vaccine.   Research is currently underway to develop a vaccine.

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Dr Joy St John, Executive Director at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) states, “Safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for over 60 years, and vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent influenza, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.  Once a COVID-19 vaccination becomes available  in the Caribbean, CARPHA is assured that the same care and due diligence would have been in place in developing the vaccine, as has been in place for the development of vaccines against respiratory illnesses.”  

The Caribbean has long been a leader among regions of the world, as our countries have applied high standards in the delivery of vaccination programmes.  While successfully maintaining a measles-free status since 1991, the Caribbean has also been eradicated of endemic smallpox in 1971, polio in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.  The health of the general public improved drastically with the vaccinations that allowed children to survive because they no longer developed severe measles infections.

If we fall behind in our immunisation programmes we run the risk of recurrence of measles and other previously eradicated diseases.  In light of this, CARPHA is urging governments to continue to maintain their vaccine coverage as a matter of priority, so Ministries of Health do not have to manage outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases like measles, while fighting the COVID-2019 pandemic. 

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends annual vaccination, which is especially important for health workers and people at higher risk of serious influenza complications, such as the very young, pregnant women, the elderly and chronically ill persons, and for people who live with or care for high risk individuals.

Dr. St. John explains that the primary form of transmission for COVID-19 and the flu are through the movement of droplets between persons and direct physical contact with the virus even on surfaces.  She added that large social events can create serious public health challenges because persons are often crowded together, making spread of COVID-19 from person to person very easy.

CARPHA encourages persons to continue to practice good personal hygiene in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), influenza and other respiratory viruses.  Good hygiene measures that persons can take include:

·       Covering your mouth with a tissue or sneezing or coughing into the crook of your elbow.

·       Safely disposing of used tissues.

·       Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after coughing and sneezing and before and after meal preparation, eating and using the toilets. Alternatively, you may use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.

·       Avoiding contact with others by staying home if you are sick.

·       Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly.

This year, between April 25 and May 2, 2020, CARPHA joins its partners and the rest of the world in celebrating the 18th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas with the slogan “Love. Trust. Protect. #GetVax.” This year’s campaign seeks to bring to mind the love people have for their children, themselves, and their communities; the trust in vaccines´ ability to save lives; and the protection they provide from diseases for everyone, everywhere.

“To maintain our community protection, we call on Ministries of Health to implement catch-up campaigns.  This will ensure that a person completes their vaccination schedule in the shortest, but effective time frame.  Continued vigilance is important, and general practitioners should remain alert and take the appropriate actions in suspected cases of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. St. John. 

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Caribbean News

Worst time to be a Woman; a Haitian crises

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Magnetic Media 

 

#TurksandCaicos, June 24, 2022 – I know many of us are frustrated by the reports of illegal vessels breaching our waters, landing on our shores, costing us in repatriation expenses and overwhelming our small states and we’re not wrong to be bent out of shape by it.  However there are many facets to this maddening issue to sound alarms and from what I’m told and because of what I have noticed, the number of women increasingly taking the risk to runaway confirms the heartbreaking truth that abuses of this vulnerable group are escalating in frequency and violence.

A teenager, pregnant jumped from a balcony in Blue Hills (TCI) in desperation to escape pursuing law enforcers; it was dark, she could have died, she was hospitalized then sent back.

Turks and Caicos Police ‘stop & search’ operations are capturing many women; women who are trying to get to a job site in the many illegal jitneys moving around the town.

Sure it is all illegal, however it remains gut wrenching that these skittish ladies would have started the day on the hustle for a little cash only to be caught, with no document affirming legal status breaking the law. They will be deported and life will change, likely for the worse.

Haiti’s instability is driving the exodus of Haitian people.  The plummeting quality of life is pushing the “irregular migrants” as they are labelled to board boats, take to the ocean in pitch black conditions, driven by a desperate home.

Some make it, some do not.

The only death recorded or reported at the TCI detention center in years was this month; it was a Haitian woman. We don’t know what went wrong. But a journey toward a better life ended with the loss of hers.

I come from a set of nations – The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands – which have ensured I have a place.  Whether that’s school or college or a job or as an entrepreneur, room was made for me and laws are in place to enable and empower me. Not only do I have bread to eat, but I get to choose the type of bread I want to eat and can share it.

I am blessed. Truly.

But for my Haitian sisters, when you see their faces and the sadness in their eyes. When the human spirit is so shattered that it creeps into the dankest of places which is utter hopelessness, we should sit up and stand up.  This should capture our attentions.

In fact we should know, that for the hundreds we do encounter, there are countless more out there, unseen and trying to survive without being fortified by a force field of love, rule of law and simple decency.  There are too many more relentlessly buffeted by exploitation and circumstances outside of their control.

I suspect, this is the absolute worst time to be a woman or girl in Haiti. Just the worst.

Whether it is the recent memorial held to remember 11 Haitian women who perished at sea in early May trying to get in, undetected to Puerto Rico or a new and emerging report on describing the sexual abuse of Haitian women working at a factory; given sickening ultimatums:  Sex for their salary; an exploitation which usually draws throngs of people to vociferous protests in more developed countries; to this news however, there is silence and little reaction that we can see.

I declare that these women are significant.  They are valued despite the trials and tribulations of their homeland.  Within this dispensation, a post Black Lives Matter world, the darker complexion of many of their skins no longer means they are disposable.

And united, it means, women wherever we are can link hearts and hands to partake in and contribute to a shared stance of solidarity.  We can do it for the voiceless anywhere we want, we are women and though muted by the many dramas and truamas unfolding in our own lives, communities and countries, we still hear these voices crying and screaming out and we will help.

Just watch and see.  Women of Haiti, help is on the way.

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Macmillan Education Caribbean hosts panel discussion with the women of STEM

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June 23, 2022 – Macmillan Education Caribbean has been holding its Summer of Science for the last two weeks, focusing on “Discovering Scientists” across the Caribbean.  Now, it announces its second exciting event in the wider campaign.

In a panel discussion hosted by Macmillan Education Caribbean, three women in the STEM industry will be invited to discuss their experiences in the field, offer advice for young women aspiring to have a career in science, and more. The panel, called Opening up science: Meet the Women in STEM will be hosted online, at 1:00pm AST on Tuesday 28th June.

The event features three fantastic panellists: Dr Claire Durant, Niva Miles, and Dr Joanne Simmons-Boyce.  Between them, they have amassed a wealth of experience at various different touchpoints of the STEM field; from authoring science textbooks and serving on examinations councils, to teaching science and practising natural products chemistry.

With Dr Claire Durant and Dr Joanne Simmons-Boyce being Barbadian scientists, and Niva Miles having authored Human and Social Biology for CSECⓇ Examinations, each of the panellists will bring a unique view on science in the Caribbean to the conversation, which will be especially useful to those watching.

The event is open to all, although young women and female educators are especially encouraged to attend. In a blog she wrote for Macmillan Education Caribbean on the importance of championing women in science, Dr Claire Durant said:

“To establish an inclusive scientist workforce, women and girls need to see themselves reflected in their teachers in the classroom as well as in the scientists who develop the technology, medicine, beauty, engineering and entertainment products that we use every day.”

Macmillan Education Caribbean is strongly encouraging schools to get involved in creative ways, by hosting ‘watch parties’ for the panel discussion inside classrooms, or by getting students and teachers to submit questions for the panellists.

In the fortnight surrounding the panel event, Macmillan Education Caribbean’s channels will be exploring Science for Life, and will be introducing the panellists in more detail, whilst also exploring the accessibility of science and spotlighting the title Human and Social Biology for CSECⓇ Examinations, which this panel was inspired by.

The Human and Social Biology for CSEC Examinations title is centred around “opening up” science, making it both accessible and engaging for learners of varying abilities. In this visually engaging series, a range of different routes to learning are explored – from animated videos to aid understanding, and project guidance for undertaking the independent School-based Assessment.

You can follow the Summer of Science across Macmillan Education Caribbean’s social media channels, visit their website for more information, or follow the hashtag #ScienceForLife to get involved with the next phase of the campaign.

Teachers and students can register for the discussion at  https://macmillanic.clickmeeting.com/opening-up-science-meet-the-women-in-stem/register.

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CARPHA Continues to Focus on Results Based Management to Achieve Results for the CARICOM Region

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, June 23, 2022 –  On June 15th and 17th, employees of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) participated in a training workshop aimed at increasing the Agency’s capacity to deliver results and to be able to assess the impact of its work.  The Strategic Planning, Results Based Management (RBM) and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Workshop forms part of a series of activities being undertaken by Le Groupe-Conseil Baastel.  Baastel was awarded the consultancy to Institutionalise Results Based Management at the Agency, in September 2021, this consultancy will also facilitate the development of CARPHA’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025.

In her opening remarks, Dr Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA stated, “While the Agency already operates within a results-oriented reality, it welcomed the opportunity for the employees to collectively, take an in-depth view of the strategic planning process.”  She added that the exercise would help to clearly show what CARPHA has achieved and what the Agency hopes to achieve in the future.  She highlighted that the training would, “help us deepen our understanding of these processes and how we can each contribute to the importance of this process.”

Head of Vector Borne Diseases, Dr Horace Cox expressed that he is optimistic that the Agency would have even greater impact moving forward and felt that the workshop was beneficial because it “teaches how we can use the data of today to guide the design and implementation of the interventions of tomorrow”.  While Dr Rian Extavour, Programme Manager of the Caribbean Regulatory System shared, “Many aspects of the session made me more aware of how we can be even more creative to find other opportunities to strengthen what we do.”

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, with the support of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), developed and implemented the CARICOM Results-Based Management (RBM) System based on the Community Strategic Plan 2015-2019.  The CARICOM RBM System was developed to serve as a mechanism to engender a more results-oriented culture within the Region.  It was executed to improve implementation rates, increase accountability, transparency and improve governance of the Community.  All regional institutions, including The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), were then mandated by CARICOM Heads of Government to adopt the RBM approach and institutionalise RBM in their operations. With activities such as these workshops, CARPHA is well on its way to fulfilling this mandate. Dr. Mark Sami, Director of Corporate Services elaborated that “RBM will ensure that organisational efficiency is enhanced because all departments whether corporate or technical will direct their energies towards the achievement of set objectives, thus ensuring unity in purpose.”

Funding for this activity is being provided by the European Union (EU) through the 11th European Development Fund (11th EDF) Programme of Support for Health Security Strengthening for Prevention and Control of Outbreaks of Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean, for which CARPHA is the Executing Agency.  The Secretariat of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) has supported CARPHA’s access to these resources. This project, which is valued at €8,000,000.00 and has a duration of four (4) years, will enhance the institutional capacity of CARPHA to effectively support the Caribbean in preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.

For additional information on the EU Project:

https://carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/11th-EDF-Regional-Health-Security

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