Violence Affecting Efforts to Eliminate Poverty

Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has said that the cost of violence is affecting the country’s efforts to eliminate poverty, and has pointed to the need for a national movement towards peace.
“I’m calling for the campaign for peace to be on the national agenda involving leaders from every sphere and stratum of society. Without peace, our efforts to eliminate poverty cannot survive,” the Minister stated as he addressed the official press launch of ‘Peace Day’ by the Violence Prevention Alliance yesterday (Feb. 7) at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston.
Citing a study carried out by the University of the West Indies, Mr. Spencer informed that the estimated cost of criminal violence is four to five per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said that the cost of injuries to the health care system has increased some seven-fold from $316 million in 1996 to more than $2 billion in 2006, which represents about a 40 per cent increase in the recurrent hospital budget in the public sector.
Related studies conducted by the Ministry, have shown that 73 per cent of hospital-referred injuries are caused by a simple fight or argument in the communities and schools.
According to the Health and Environment Minister, a peace plan should be an integrated part of development, social and security policies, and a critical component of the national transformation process. “We must be prepared to make personal sacrifices to achieve peace in this land once and for all,” he stated, adding that, “we must target and work systematically with communities that are prepared to enter into a formal agreement and commitment for sustainable peace.” Meanwhile, Cecil White, Vice President of Operations at the National Health Fund, (NHF), said that funds used to treat trauma needs to be re-directed to more productive areas. Stating that the NHF has provided a $21 million grant to the VPA for the 2007/08 fiscal year, he said that supporting the efforts of the Alliance towards achieving peace, will help to reduce the burden on the health care system. He also pointed out that crime hinders certain health practices, such as regular exercise, where persons feel vulnerable walking in their own communities, due to the threat of violence. “It is our belief that by reducing violence in our communities, and the society at large, this will improve access to health care and facilitate an environment conducive to supporting a healthy lifestyle,” Mr. White added. Peace Month is being celebrated under the theme: ‘Peace for Prosperity,’ and runs from February 6 to March 4.

JIS Social