By Rashaed Esson
#TheBahamas, April 13, 2023 – The Centre of Disease Control now places autism at 1 in every 36 children down from 1 in every 56, according to Dwayne Gibson, the Chairman of R.E.A.C.H, who spoke at the 11th annual commemoration of World Autism Day “Light it up Blue” at Rawson Square on April 1, themed “It’s ok to be a little different;” an event to keep this challenge in the spotlight.
While the US is citing a downward trend of children diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum, for The Bahamas the report is starkly different.
Last year R.E.A.C.H organized and launched an online public survey to ascertain the number of families affected by autism in The Bahamas, unfortunately, the participation in the survey was not satisfactory. Still, Gibson went on to say that they were able to gather information from their office that revealed and increase in the number of children are being diagnosed with mild, moderate, or severe autism.
Gibson, on April 2, rolled out recent initiatives of R.E.A.C.H including a free respite care service which is offered every Saturday and Sunday, supervised by Special Education teachers from the Ministry of Education. This allows parents of autistic children to take a break on weekends which is a big help, he said.
Also, R.E.A.C.H is in talks with the Ministry of Education to connect with a well-trained foreign speech therapists to meet later this month with special needs teachers. This is to keep them up to date with the latest and most effective practices and protocols, in order to yield better results with the children.
They are also in collaboration to fly the therapist to Eleuthera to rendezvous and conduct screenings and assessments with special needs kids from Spanish Wells and Harbour Island who would not have the opportunity to access professional help.
Gibson made another important point, noting that the Government’s “continued” annual grant to the non-profit organization, through the Ministry of Social Services, has allowed them to hire a resident Speech Pathologist which has taken some of the weight off of parents’ shoulders to find and pay for private speech therapy services. He expressed that they are able to provide quality speech therapy services to those who are most in need.
While the chairman aptly laid out the progresses and needs, the Light it Up Blue ceremony also made room for the talents of children and teens on the Autism Spectrum to display their talents in singing, music and speaking. A period of the event was also dedicated to the honoring of a number of special needs children as 2023 R.E.A.C.H Star Students for their continued development and excellence at their schools.
Needless to say, the children were visibly happy and excited to be have been recognised to an audience which included both the Prime Minister, Philip Davis and the Minister of Education, Glenys Hanna-Martin.
The Prime Minster gave the official countdown to the lighting up of Rawson Square. The country’s democratic center, located on Bay Street in Nassau, continues to be illuminated by blue lights this month, which best seen during the evening hours.
The Bahamas Records a “Smashing Eight Million Plus” Tourist Arrivals
NASSAU, The Bahamas — Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. I. Chester Cooper announced that The Bahamas has recorded a smashing eight million plus tourist arrivals.
“In 2019, a historic year for Bahamas tourism, total visitor arrivals amounted to 7.2 million. Last year, total tourist numbers matched the 2019 record year total and today we are over eight million,” the Acting Prime Minister said during a press conference and brunch at Margaritaville Beach Resort Meeting Room Ballroom on Monday, December 4, 2023.
He pointed out that the Ministry still has not counted the months of November and December.
Acting Prime Minister Cooper said the explosive numbers places the country on the trajectory to continue the upward trend well into 2024.
“For the first 10 consecutive months, January to October, total air and sea arrivals were higher when compared to the same months in 2022 and in 2019 which was then, our banner year of tourism. We have now moved the goal post.”
He said, “In fact, foreign air and sea arrivals in October increased by 45.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2022 and surpassed 2019 levels by 32 per cent.”
The Acting Prime Minister explained that the US remains the top performing stopover market with the Latin American market gaining momentum in its steady return to pre-pandemic stopover levels, while increased visitor arrivals are coming from Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and as far as Australia.
He said foreign air arrivals for October year-to-date were up by 19.7 per cent for the same period last year and also surpassed 2019 levels.
Acting Prime Minister Cooper said cruise arrivals were up 54 per cent over 2022 levels and 43.2 per cent over 2019 levels.
“We estimate that direct visitor spending in the Bahamian economy as a result of these arrivals will far exceed $6 billion. That’s right, more than $6 billion of new money injected directly into the economy, and this is also up compared to 2019 and 2022.”
He also noted that the nation has seen increased airlift including first time routes.
“Last month, we welcomed the first ever direct non-stop flight by Jet Blue connecting passengers from Los Angeles to Nassau.
“In less than two weeks, Alaska Air will service four weekly flights from Los Angeles International Airport and three times weekly flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Nassau Lynden Pindling International Airport.”
The Acting Prime Minister said The Bahamas Government has launched a public private partnership airport infrastructural project for 14 Family Island airports to increase both domestic and international travel.
He explained that less than a year ago, the $2 million renovation was completed at Great Harbour Cay International Airport and a new terminal was opened in Ragged Island.
“More recently, a management agreement was signed by The Bahamas and Bimini Airport Development Partners Limited to renovate South Bimini Airport to the tune of $80 million.”
Acting Prime Minister Cooper said the $300 million Nassau Cruise Port renovation was completed and the port is now fully opened.
“The port already surpassed its previous record at the end of November and will host at least a projected 4.2 million cruise passengers by the end of the year, setting a new benchmark for Nassau cruise passenger arrivals.”
He also noted that the Ministry of Tourism has intensified its strategic marketing efforts and last year launched the successful “Bringing The Bahamas to You” campaign to more than 15 cities in the USA and Canada to recapture market share and generate new leads.
One Day Married, Woman dies after shark attack in Nassau, Bahamas
#TheBahamas, December 5, 2023 – A newlywed American woman is left dead after a tragic shark attack in The Bahamas on Monday, December 4th, in New Providence.
The deceased, 44 years old and visiting from Boston, Massachusetts, was paddle boarding with her husband when she was attacked, reports say.
According to initial reports, she was with an unidentified male relative, paddle boarding about “3/4 miles out from the shoreline, when she was bitten by the shark.”
Her husband was unhurt in the rare attack in waters just off their resort, Sandals Royal Bahamian.
The Royal Bahamas Police was on site in full force; offering support and launching an investigation into what precisely happened. Police informed that the newlywed died due to serious injuries sustained in the attack and was pronounced dead at the scene.
“CPR was administered to the victim. However, she suffered serious injuries to the right side of her body, including the right hip region and also her right upper limb.”
The incident took place near the Sandals Resort on Cable Beach.
Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort in a statement, commenting on her death said, “we are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of a guest while on a paddle boarding activity nearly a mile from the shore. We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the guest’s family and loved ones. We remain in close contact with them and are providing all support possible during this difficult time.”
Photo: Courtesy of The Bahamas Tonight, ZNS Bahamas
Bahamas went into COP28 with BIG GOALS in mind
#TheBahamas, December 5, 2023 – The Bahamas government highlighted its intentions for the upcoming Cop28 conference which includes taking part in the negotiation process, advancing investment programmes and the launching of major projects.
According to Dr. Rochell Newbold, Climate Advisor, for negotiations, there are three potential outputs the country is looking to follow and they include loss and damage, the technical assistance that will be offered to countries within the loss and damage space and following up on the issues of global stocktake.
For the loss and damage fund, she speaks to the efforts of small island developing states since Cop27, to enhance matters relevant to the loss and damage fund.
This intention, that is to encourage dialogue around this issue, comes as there are geopolitical issues going on globally and global finances are going to those issues and not to global issues of climate change.
In fact, referring to actual statistics, she expressed that in as little as a few months, more than $200 billion dollars were raised and distributed to the issue of war and yet, for years there has been talks around $100 billion needed to address the climate agreement.
For issues of investment opportunities, opportunities which Newbold says would bring great success for The Bahamas, she referred to a current investment project in the country that is a financial grant to address energy and water needs on nine islands within the archipelago, which they are looking to expand.
Furthermore, at Cop28, The Bahamas will launch its BlueCo Caribbean project, driving the blue economy and investment strategy, Newbold said.
This program comes after a regional meeting last year where it was highlighted that the region needs a program to address the needs of island states as well as the fact that less than 0.1 percent of global investments go to the marine environment.
Regarding global stock take, it addresses everything related to the world’s position on climate action and support, identifying the gaps, and working to chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Additionally, Newbold made another revelation that they will be unveiling The Bahamas Sustainable Investment programme, which has been worked on since Cop 27.
Described as a sleek and tactical delegation, the advisor said less than 20 people will be attending Cop28 including the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister with Responsibility for Energy and Transportation.
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