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Statement by Sean Astwood, PDM Interim Leader: Encouragement to stick with Border Security Strategy they started

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#TurksandCaicos, April 23, 2021 – Two months into its term in Office, the new Government has seen 9 sloops with 3 intercepted in the past week alone carrying a total of approximately 631 persons and one making a rare landfall on the Island of South Caicos with a report that seems that all made good their escape. We can all agree across party lines that this is tragic on all levels but certainly for the people of this country, it remains a financial burden that we painfully bear. On top of this, this is equally a real health risk given the fact that we are actively managing a pandemic that is getting deadlier and deadlier having loss more citizens to death in the past three months than we did in all the prior months during this pandemic.

The PDM as Government recognized and continue to recognize that there must be a strategic, well resourced, modern and sustainable approach to addressing illegal migration and encourage the PNP Government to not abandon the hard work and the plans left behind.

On the PDM assuming Office in December 2016, persons will recall the launch of Operation Guardian as early as a few months after gaining Office which in its inaugural year by July 2017 saw 1335 persons repatriated versus 419 in 2016. This sustained land – based operation was halted for humanitarian reasons following the Twin Storms of 2017. The Storms further highlighted that we could no longer rely so heavily on our Radar System which was damaged following these Storms and which provided limited coverage.

The vision of the PDM Government to become more involved as a true partner with the Governor and UK in the matter of internal and external security put into action and the plans under our 12 Point Law Enforcement Plan which saw the modernization, strengthening and strategic pooling of our resources locally, regionally and internationally. This approach became even more urgent two years ago in March 2018 with an onslaught of sloops which forced us to call on the UK for a UK Ship to provide border coverage which was favorably considered. This also saw the beginning of Official Talks with the Bahamas towards the first ever bilateral agreement: an MOU that will allow us the benefit of the Bahamian resources (The Bahamas Defense Force) in a strategic way outside of the OPBAT arrangement.

With the rapid arrival of illegal sloops and the detention of over 600 migrants in a week, the PDM deem it important to remind the people of our ground breaking efforts and wish to encourage the PNP Government to not abandon the hard work carried out over the past four years which will strengthen our defenses.

After several years of working towards a holistic threat assessment and the creation of a national security strategy, the PDM Government established a Secretariat with its first ever Permanent Secretary of National Security. This Unit must help to provide a coordinated approach across government as the days of having law enforcement bodies working in silos should be discouraged and the smart and strategic use of our limited resources should be encouraged.

Over the years, investment in the leading enforcement bodies has seen restructuring of the then Ministry of Border Control and Immigration Task Force to see the recruitment of a second Deputy Permanent Secretary dedicated solely to immigration and the recruitment of a Task Force Manager. The Police as one of the lead partners in stemming the flow of illegal migrants saw record investment in manpower, cars, boats, plane and drone in its role in national security.

The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources also received new vessels while the Radar Staff was increased and equipment enhanced. While continued investment in the various lead bodies through equipment and manpower is a must, legislation must be introduced to enhance and support all efforts.

However, of critical importance are the three major strands of work advanced before we demitted Office and which have been reported on over the years. All works have taken considerable time with UK and TCI investment and dedication to move at pace. Persons will recall the visit of the UK Border Team and representatives from the Ministry of Defense who made strong recommendations several years ago. Persons will also recall the introduction of a Change Manager in our National Budget two years ago to lead on the creation of a Joint Law Enforcement Body styled a Border Protection Agency that will see the smarter and more strategic use of our resources across law enforcement. As a follow up to these efforts more than 2 years ago, works have advanced for the establishment of TCI’s first Border Force Agency with a direct seconded staff member from the UK (at its own cost) and the establishment of the TCI’s Regiment, now in the process of recruiting more manpower to assist in the area of national security.

The third and equally critical strand of work is the joint investment between TCIG’s Consolidated Funds and National Forfeiture Fund towards the purchase of additional radar satellite stations. These three strands of work should not be discontinued at any cost if we want to see any real change. We call on the PNP Government to allow these works to continue. And even as we seek to strengthen our borders, the work of Operation Guardian, a sustained land – based operation to detain and repatriate undocumented residents must be restored together with the use of the strengthened policies and laws made available to the Planning Department and AG’s Chambers (who manages the Crown Land Unit) to address informal settlements.

We are confident that our many years of work will be a game changer and the continuation of our efforts will be best for TCI.

Bahamas News

CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases

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October 14, 2021 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) conducted a technical mission to Guyana from September 22nd – 25th, 2021 to undertake site visits as a part of an ongoing assessment of six (6) Member States’ systems for the national surveillance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. This activity was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Guyana through an Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – funded project.

The aim of the assessment s to provide evidence in support of the development of a Regional Surveillance System for NCDs, a priority under the regional health framework Caribbean Cooperation in Health IV (2016-2025).

During the mission, the CARPHA technical team reviewed the capacity of existing surveillance mechanisms in Guyana to collect, analyse and report on the NCDs and risk factor indicators proposed for the regional surveillance system. These indicators were recommended by a multi-stakeholder meeting series convened in 2020 under the AFD project, which reviewed global, regional, and sub-regional mandates, targets and practices in surveillance for the prevention and control of NCDs.

The CARPHA Team along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health conducted visits to two (2) health centres, the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health Surveillance, and Statistics Unit.  The results from the overall assessment will be presented to the Ministry of Health Guyana and will also be reviewed alongside results from similar assessments in Anguilla, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname to inform the finalisation of the regional surveillance system design through a regional stakeholder meeting.

The regional NCDs surveillance system would facilitate the reporting and availability of data to inform policy development, planning, and tracking of progress towards meeting for targets NCDs at Regional and National levels.

Through funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is leading the Region in Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to prevent and control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean. This project, signed in 2019 with a value of €1,500,000.00, demonstrates the commitment of the Government of France and the French people to supporting the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community through CARPHA.

More information on the Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and-Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security-In-The-Caribbean

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Bahamas News

World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  14 October, 2021.  In the Caribbean, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes).  According to the Vision Atlas, 6.2 million persons in the Caribbean were reported to have vision loss, with an estimated 260,000 persons reported to be blind in 2020.

Information gathered from eighteen (18) Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a population of 44 million, showed that the crude prevalence of blindness was 0.60%, and the prevalence of all vision loss was 13.20%. Many of the persons affected were females at 52%.

Global statistics reveal that for 2020, a total of 596 million persons had distance vision impairment worldwide, of this number 43 million were blind.  Projections for 2050, indicate that an estimated 885 million persons may be affected by distance vision impairment with 61 million expected to experience  blindness.

CARPHA’s vision for the Caribbean is a region where the health and wellness of the people are promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability, thereby enabling human development in keeping with the belief that the health of the Region is the wealth of the Region.

Although there are no projects that directly address vision impairment, CARPHA in collaboration with its public health partners is implementing initiatives to address risk factors such as unhealthy diets, use of harmful substances and poor physical activities. This in turn, will help reduce the risk of disability due to complications associated with poor blood sugar and blood pressure management.

Efforts to improve the standards of care for diabetes through the implementation of the CARPHA Guidelines on the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, and training of health care workers from the CARPHA Member States will also contribute to the prevention of vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes.

Access to eye care services can reduce visual impairment.  CARPHA urges Member States to strengthen health systems to improve eye health services with emphasis on reaching the vulnerable and those most in need.  Governments should commit to integrating eye care into the universal health care system.

World Sight Day is celebrated annually on the second Thursday in October.  The focus of the day is to bring awareness to blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue and blindness prevention.

The 2021 commemoration observed on 14th October, seeks to encourage persons to think about the ‘importance of their own eye health.’

Our eyes are working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and probably missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritize our eyesight. There are simple things you can do for yourself to prevent the development of serious eye issues:

  • Take screen breaks for at least five minutes every hour
  • Spend time outside.  Increased outdoor time can reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness)[3]
  • Get an eye test. A complete eye exam can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma before it has an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet and engage in physical activity. These are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.
  • If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes checked every year

Your sight cannot be taken for granted.  It is time to LOVE YOUR EYES!

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Bahamas News

TCI Premier and Tourism Minister lead delegation  at NABHOOD Summit

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#TurksandCaicos, October 13, 2021 – The Hon. Premier, Charles Washington Missick and Hon. Josephine Connolly Minister for tourism attended the 8th Annual International Multicultural & Heritage Tourism Summit and Trade Show. This summit was held at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay Hotel from October 8th to 10th. The theme of this year’s Summit was ‘Gaining Economic Powers Through Multicultural Tourism’. The summit was held by the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers (NABHOOD)

Both the Hon. Premier and Minister for tourism were key panelist at the summit. The Premier sat with interviewer Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, former Minister of Tourism & Aviation of the Bahamas on a one on one interview entitled A conversation on The Turks and Caicos Islands. This discussion was extremely well received and allowed for the Premier to discuss factors attributing to the success of the Tourism industry in the islands and his vision for the sector.

Hon. Connolly joined a high caliber panel with three other industry experts on Saturday morning. Their discussion centered around Diversity in Tourism and the impact to the Destination. The Minister expanded on where Turks and Caicos’ industry was heading post pandemic, how it performed over the past months and insight into the future of Tourism in the Turks and Caicos Islands including the setting up of a Regulatory Authority and a Destination Management Organization.

Among others participating from the Turks and Caicos Islands were students and a chaperone from the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College Hospitality Program. The students had the opportunity to network with other US and Caribbean students at the summit.

It is clear that the growth of the Tourism sector in the TCI and the fact that we continue to perform well despite the challenges of COVID 19, is of interest to many. Also of note is the vision articulated by the Premier as he noted; ‘it is imperative that we provide opportunities within the Tourism sector for the growth of investment and local ownership. Turks and Caicos Islanders must benefit directly from the growth of this sector’. The Premier noted that much of his efforts will be to promote investment and ownership by Turks and Caicos Islanders as much as possible.

The Hon. Minister of Tourism stated her pride in representing the country and sector at this summit; ‘This is the first opportunity I have had to present our island on a panel for some time. This year despite COVID 19, we saw arrival numbers that even exceeded pre-COVID 19 during the summer months. I can say that our protocols, our partnerships, our pre-screening program and our COVID 19 marketing strategy all contributed to this success.’

 

 

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