JIS News

Jamaica is among eight Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Caribbean countries slated to benefit from an £8-million (US$3.8-million) financial contribution, which the United Kingdom (UK) has pledged to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and mitigate its impact in regional territories.

A PAHO statement on Friday (May 22) listed Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the other beneficiaries of the provision, which will be channeled through the UK Department for International Development (UK DFID).

The funds are intended to assist Caribbean states to access critical medical equipment and other supplies urgently needed for immediate response to COVID-19.

According to PAHO, the sum is in addition to US$9.9 million, which the UK Government has already provided via World Health Organization (WHO) allocations, to support the regional entity’s COVID-19 response strategy in Latin America and the Caribbean, as outlined in its Donor Appeal.

PAHO says the six-month response strategy is intended to help save lives and reduce human transmission of the virus, including secondary infections in healthcare settings, by reorganising health services and implementing infection prevention and control measures.

Additionally, PAHO says the undertaking aims to ensure early detection of COVID-19 cases by strengthening existing surveillance systems and scaling up laboratory capacity.

“Part of the strategy will also improve the communication of clear and transparent public health information about risks and protective measures to populations on the islands,” the statement further indicated.

PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, welcomes the latest gesture, noting that the organisation “very much appreciates the strong partnership and long-standing support of the Government of the United Kingdom”.

“We are grateful to UK DFID for helping Caribbean Small Island Developing States combat the serious COVID-19 pandemic and address the unique challenges they are facing,” she added.

For his part, UK DFID Caribbean Country Director, Stefan Kossoff, said the UK Government remains “committed to supporting our Caribbean friends and partners through this crisis”.

He noted that countries globally face “unprecedented challenges” with COVID-19, adding that UK assistance is supporting vulnerable health systems in the Caribbean and across the world, “to save lives, protect vital services and reduce the risk of future waves of infection globally”.

“In addition to our multimillion [dollar] commitment for the development of a possible vaccine, this direct regional support will help Caribbean countries to cope with the coronavirus crisis, boost their healthcare efforts and protect the most vulnerable. The UK stands with the people of the Caribbean in these difficult times,” Mr. Kossoff said.

The UK Government’s donation will also contribute to the United Nations (UN) Multi-Sectoral Response Plan for the Eastern Caribbean, launched on April 30, which aims to support countries in that region to scale up their respective national actions to respond to COVID-19 through a multidimensional approach.

PAHO has indicated that the funds from DFID will bolster its inputs to support a coherent public health response that addresses the most pressing needs of beneficiary countries.

Additionally, the organisation said it will ensure strong coordination and management, as well as information sharing arrangements, with other UN and regional/bilateral agencies to maximise impact and eliminate potential duplication.

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