Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. CARICOM Member States are poised to benefit from a fund to strengthen health systems to prevent, control and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emerging and re-emerging threats. The fund will also support the generation of evidence and information to inform decision-making on the management of public health priorities and emergencies and disease control programmes and policies.
Financing for the project “Health Systems Strengthening for CARICOM Member States to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Emerging and Re-emerging Threats” is provided by the Kingdom of Spain through the Joint Fund for CARICOM-Spain Scientific and Technical Cooperation, through the CARICOM Secretariat. Under this grant valued at US$1,189,247.00, CARPHA will be able to execute a series of interventions to the benefit of its Member States.
The launch of the project took place on 9 June 2022, at the headquarters of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
Dr. St. John expressed her gratitude to the Kingdom of Spain for the support, stating “We at CARPHA are pleased to have been entrusted with the management of these resources for the benefit of our Member States. Through these resources, CARPHA will develop a Caribbean COVID-19 Monitoring and Evaluation Framework and establish a regional COVID-19 data repository. The desired outcome of this intervention is to have Member States utilize data from the COVID-19 repository to inform decision-making at the national level.”
The project also enables the procurement and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment, equipment and supplies for testing including reagents and supplies to conduct whole genome sequencing, COVID-19 test kits and supporting reagents, PCR automatic sample extraction equipment and transportation, and shipping of laboratory specimens to CARPHA for testing to support ongoing laboratory surveillance and outbreak support for COVID-19 and other emerging and re-emerging threats.
In 1999, relations between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Kingdom of Spain were strengthened through the Agreement on Scientific and Technical Cooperation following the First CARICOM-Spain Summit held in Trinidad and Tobago. The Kingdom of Spain is a longstanding partner and continues to give its support to the Community’s efforts including health, industry, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, education and culture, teaching of Spanish, training of diplomats, and scientific and technological research.
Dr. Douglas Slater Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM, remarked “The Community recognizes with gratitude the contribution of the Government of Spain. This project is timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly weakened already fragile health systems across the region. The pandemic has taught us that we must consider the redesign of our health systems, to make them resilient to future pandemics and other disease outbreaks. Dr. Slater speaking on behalf of Dr. Carla Barnett, CARICOM Secretary General, further stated “To achieve this, we must focus on expanding the pool of trained health personnel; developing digital health systems; building capacity for vaccine development and regulation within the region and building health systems around primary health and community-based care models linked to centres of excellence. We as a region cannot achieve them alone. Partnerships like that with Spain are critical to facilitate achievement of these goals.”
In his remarks, His Excellency Fernando Nogales, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago stated that strengthening of health systems was critical to maintaining the trust and confidence that the Region has earned as a safe tourism destination. His Excellency reaffirmed that the Kingdom of Spain is very keenly aware of the specific needs of the Caribbean region and stands ready to provide support to projects such as this that will have a clear human development impact. The Spain-CARICOM Project will aim to ensure that decision-makers are provided with timely and accurate information to guide data-driven public health interventions.
Speaking at the ceremony Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Roshan Parasram brought remarks on behalf of the Honourable Terrance Deyalsingh, Minister of Health Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Strong healthcare systems bolster not only the supply and delivery of quality healthcare to CARICOM residents and citizens but can curb the potential detrimental and irrevocable effects of current and future pandemics. Strengthening CARICOM’s health systems against COVID-19 and other emerging and re-emerging threats should not be a choice but a priority. The pandemic has reiterated that health security cannot be seen as a cost, but rather a continuous investment necessary for stability and sustainability.
During the 2 year project, CARPHA will develop an integrated digital Monitoring and Evaluation platform and repository to improve monitoring of regional and international health objectives such as, Caribbean Cooperation in Health Four (CCH-IV) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing, for CARICOM Member States. Resources procured through the Project have already been used to provide laboratory diagnostic testing services to Member States.