Faced with limited capacity and fiscal space, as well as high levels of exposure to economic and climate related risks, the four participating OECS countries have had limited success in adequately preparing for public health emergencies. Recent extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria (2017) and regional outbreaks of Chikungunya (2014) and Zika (2016) highlighted the consequences of weaknesses in public health emergency preparedness.
Preparedness in the context of this regional project refers to a range of health and non-health capabilities and operational capacities put in place at national and regional levels to ensure prevention, protection, response and recovery from public health emergencies, such as infectious disease outbreaks, extreme weather events and other climate change risks. Natural disasters and disease outbreaks have demonstrated the cross-boundary nature of public health emergencies, underlining the need for resilient health systems and stronger inter-country collaboration. A regional approach is thereby warranted, whereby investments in preparedness are harmonized at the country level and complemented at the regional level. As part of strengthening health security for the OECS region, this project intends to build resilience and mitigate cross-border transmission of disease outbreaks and disruptions in the aftermath of an extreme weather event and climate change impacts. This project responds to the demand for financial support for preparedness for public health emergencies expressed by Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and is expected to enhance their capacity to adapt to and mitigate climate change and have spillover benefits across the OECS region.
Under the proposed project, investments in health systems strengthening will have a direct impact on improving International Health Regulations (IHR) core capacities in the participating countries, particularly in the areas of surveillance, laboratories, workforce development and emergency management. Furthermore, project investments will contribute to sustainable, effective and efficient regional collaboration for mitigating and/or preventing public health risks and the economic consequences associated with infectious diseases while also improving continuity of care following a disaster