Addressing the opening ceremony of a two-day tele-conference of the 58th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Mottley said the Caribbean needed the restructuring of the world financial system if it is to meet the future socio-economic demands of its population.
“Only in this way, can vulnerable sub-regions like our Caribbean Community escape the prison of the false per capita based “middle income” categorisation which is blocking us from receiving much-needed financial aid, while penalising our efforts at creating sustainable national economies.
“We refrain from settling on more appropriate proxies like a vulnerability index that will better measure our capacity to absorb shocks like this and our capacity to be able to respond to them. Equally, we continue to use raw and imprecise proxies to determine access to so many public goods, including in this instance, vaccines and therapeutics.”
The Prime Minister said the COVID-19 pandemic had torn families apart, undermined people’s livelihoods, threatened their mental wellness and nearly destroyed economies.
“But worse of all, it has made some of us even more selfish and unwilling to share scarce resources that could help save lives in our region, in our hemisphere and in our globe. Disappointingly enough, some have made it a fight for survival similar to what we would see on the “big screen” in post-apocalyptic movies,” she suggested.
Mottley said with the Caribbean being among the most dependent regions of the world “and whose economies have come to a screeching halt with zero revenue, we have to find a way to jump start our economies.
“But it must be done in such a way so as to ensure the safety of our workers,” she said, adding “it is for this reason that I have been advocating that the workers in the tourism and travel sector be given priority access to vaccinations and therapeutics when they are fully available.
“This will allow thousands of our workers to get back to work safely in this hemisphere and to get our almost dormant economies awake again. I look forward to your cooperation in this institution in helping us to make this call for so many of our countries that are literally affected by the absence of travel and tourism activities”.
She said that one of the benefits of COVID-19) has been the improvement in the environment as a result of the lockdowns across the world, but “regrettably with the restart we are almost back to where we were before the pandemic struck us.
“This kind of pause occasioned by COVID-19 was and is needed for us to take stock of our climate agendas and to press on with the more ambitious nationally determined contributions. WE say so on the frontline of this crisis, we say so on the frontline of the hurricane season. But the hurricane season is just the heart attacks of the climate crisis, no one talks sufficiently about the chronic NCDs (non-communicable diseases) in the climate crisis,” she said, making references also to the droughts, floods and the sargassum weed “that is bringing havoc to our coastal economies”.
She thanked the Director and staff of PAHO for their consistent and tangible support to the region of the Americas and Barbados during the pandemic. She said were it not for PAHO, this region would not have been able to get its testing capacity up.
Ms. Mottley noted that Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Timothy Harris, will represent the Caribbean Community on the global steering committee of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which would oversee the COVAX Facility.
“We are confident that this arrangement will ensure equity in access to treatments and vaccines. For without this public good, we shall truly be left behind,” the Prime Minister pointed out.
Mottley said that for the first time, CARICOM has been given access to the African medical supplies platform through the intervention of the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the director of the African Union.
She said that the WHO official is also “behind bringing the diaspora in CARICOM into closer collaboration with the continent of many of our ancestors…and this bridge will go way beyond this pandemic and will go way beyond the issue of health care for this is a historic bridge that we have built back to the African continent”.
COVAX is one of three pillars of ACT Accelerator, which was launched in April by the World Health Organization, the European Commission and France in response to this pandemic.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The two day meeting will focus mainly on countries’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on national health systems and services. The implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) will also be discussed.
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