‘Bold actions’ needed to reduce risks and respond to current, future health emergencies in the Caribbean

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa.

The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, has urged Caribbean and other ministers of health and high-level delegates to utilize all available knowledge and resources to ensure that people’s health is placed at the very centre of the global response to future pandemics and emergencies.

“We, the survivors, have the great responsibility and urgent imperative to implement bold actions that take stock of the experience of countries in responding to COVID-19,” Barbosa said.

Speaking on Wednesday at a session on strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness during the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, Barbosa highlighted that while preventing a pandemic may be extremely difficult, “we must break the historic pattern of panic and neglect regarding pandemic threats.”

He said this will require a proper analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic response involving all sectors, the international community and beneficiaries to review “the challenges we faced, the failures and the strengths we showed, and identify the actions that we need to implement immediately and in the short- and long term.”

The PAHO director underscored that many countries, including those in the Americas and the Caribbean, faced challenges in responding to the pandemic, particularly regarding surveillance and access to diagnostics, medicines, vaccines and qualified health personnel.

Barbosa said, that PAHO member states fully engage in the discussions led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the development of an international instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, as well as those regarding the update of the International Health Regulations.

PAHO said it continues to work with member states to share information about these negotiation processes and facilitate dialogue to ensure equitable participation of the region, including small island developing states (SIDS).

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the global health emergencies preparedness and response fit for purpose, and to strengthen their foundation,” Dr Barbosa said.

During the session, PAHO said the WHO’s Global Health for Peace Initiative was also presented and will be further discussed.

“This outlines a plan to better address the drivers of health needs in fragile, conflict-affected and vulnerable settings, and to strengthen the role of WHO and the health sector as contributors to peace outcomes, such as social cohesion, dialogue, or resilience to violence,” PAHO said.

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