JIS News

The Clarendon Health Department is spearheading a series of events in support of Peace Month, which is being observed from February 6 to March 16.
They are being staged in partnership with a number of stakeholders in Clarendon, including the Police Department, the Crime Prevention Committee, Chamber of Commerce, Social Development Commission (SDC) and the National Council for Youth Development (NCYD).
Speaking with JIS News, Health Education Officer at the Health Department, Carlisa Pearson said that the peace activities are designed to serve as a platform for launching more violence prevention activities for the parish, which saw an increase in homicides in 2007.
Citing statistics for the parish, Ms. Pearson said that some 119 deaths were recorded for the January to December 2007 period and more than 20 since the start of the year. “Up to five years ago that figure would be 100 per cent less,” she pointed out, stressing the need for immediate intervention in the parish.
“The Health Department sees the crime and violence as a major public health concern,” Ms. Pearson said and, “the Accident and Emergency Unit at the May Pen Hospital has been kept unusually busy by the intentional injuries (and) trauma cases from disputes and attacks.”
As a result, on Friday, March 7 the Health Department and its partners are expecting more than 500 people, including students, health workers and community based organisations (CBOs), to participate in a mega peace march from the May Pen Hospital to Bargain Village Plaza in May Pen.
“We have never had this high level of collaboration for the peace process in Clarendon,” Ms. Pearson noted. This public gesture of unity with all the people concerned, she said, would send a message that conflicts and issues can and must be resolved amicably. “We are not tolerating the crime and violence in Clarendon and we are taking a stand against it,” she added.
Young people would be specially targeted through an expo and concert at the end of the peace march, using local folk forms, such as music and drama all conveying the message that “peace only has benefits and that violence is destructive,” she added.
Ms. Pearson indicated that the choice of artistes for the concert came through the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA), the organization leading the Peace Month activities and JASTYLE. “We understand that they have been trained to promote peace and that they are generally positive artistes. We have just confirmed Etana and Gyptian is also confirmed,” the Health Education Officer told JIS News. Other acts headlining the concert are Jodi-Ann Pantry, Nesbeth and Shane-O.
“This is their (the artistes’) own contribution to the process and we realize that all that we may be able do on the day is to generate interest and further peace discussions and consciousness on the day.the other more targeted and deeper activities will include the work of the police and the other stakeholders as well as the conflict resolution rap and training sessions with select secondary schools that have had issues with violence,” she continued.
The Taxi Drivers’ Association in the parish has also committed to flying a blue flag and will join in the march. The business community, through the Chamber of Commerce, will also fly a flag at their business places.
“We expect heavy traffic on the day of the march and hope to capitalize on this,” Ms. Pearson said, adding that she hoped the activities would encourage discussion and boost the level of interest in finding solutions to the crime problem in Clarendon.

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