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News Round UP: Week Ending 4/16/16

JAMAICA

The Ministry of Health is reporting that the country has adequate medical supplies to treat Zika Virus infections. Director of Health Promotion and Protection, Dr Sonia Copeland, says the ministry has stockpiled over two million Paracetamol tablets and 2,000 bottles of liquid medicine.

Additionally, she says there is an adequate supply of immunoglobulin to treat Guillian-Barré syndrome, a condition linked to Zika, which affects the nervous system, often resulting in muscle weakness and, in some instances, paralysis.

She was speaking at a Gender and Zika Public Forum at the New Kingston Conference Centre, on Tuesday, April 12.

Dr Copeland informed that new ventilators are also being procured to treat Zika-related complications at public hospitals islandwide, adding that non-functional instruments at these institutions will be repaired.

The director indicated that an Integrated Vector Management Plan has also been developed.

This engagement facilitated the recent acquisition of 10 vehicles, 87 fogging machines, and just over 100 drums of chemicals for use in reducing mosquito prevalence.Caribzone_Jamaica

“We have to make sure we can control the vector population; so we have (brought in) adequate chemicals (and equipment) to appropriately respond. But we have to also be responsible in how we use these chemicals, because of environmental concerns,” Dr Copeland stated.

The Ministry has also recalled a number of retired public health inspectors to boost its vector management capacity, while training for current health workers has been ramped up and will continue until the end of April.

Dr Copeland notes that these engagements will significantly boost activities already undertaken to counter the onset of the Zika virus.

These include protocol developed for detection and diagnoses, following a $10 million upgrade of the National Virology Reference Laboratory at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), last month.

To date, Jamaica has recorded six cases of Zika infection, which is characterized by a rash outbreak, fever, conjunctivitis, joint and muscle pain, headache and weakness.

The Gender and Zika Public Forum was hosted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

It facilitated discussions on how the virus impacts women’s health, and national development.

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JAMAICA

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has tasked Commissioner of Police Carl Williams and Minister of National Security Robert Montague with the responsibility of ensuring that the murder toll dips below the 1,000 mark this year.

Last year the number of murders recorded by the police stood at 1,207, which was 202, more than the 1,005 reported the previous year.

“… I am going to hold the commissioner to account for bringing that murder rate to below 1,000, and I am going to hold the minister (of national security) for putting in place the policy and supporting the commissioner. I also have to appeal to the conscience of Jamaicans, to that young man in the inner city, to say yes, I know you feel as if you have no stake in Jamaica but I want you to understand that you have a prime minister that believes in you and will put the programmes in place for you to help you to make that change in your life,” Holness said Tuesday night.

Caribzone_JamaicaThe prime minister said it should not be the accepted norm for people to commit murder to resolve conflicts, arguing that the Jamaican people use the index of the national murder rate as their measure of national security.

“… So when we say other crimes are going down, if murders continue to rise and continue uncontrolled, then people just don’t feel the level of security and this point must be understood by every single police [officer], starting from the commissioner right down to the policeman walking the market on beat patrols,”said Holness.

He was addressing the third in a series of island-wide town hall meetings, hosted by the security minister, at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay.

The prime minister also pointed out that even as he will hold people who have delegated authority to account, he will not shift any blame from himself to another person.

“You will understand that you have a prime minister that will own the issues, that will deal with the issues, not back away from the issues, not try to pass the buck. I start from the point that I am responsible. I am the chief accounting officer for the Government, so a part of the job of being the chief accounting officer is to hold people to account. In essence you have voted and I am the custodian of the authority you have voted on, and I must use that authority to hold the persons who have delegated authority to account,” he said.

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HAITI

Deaths from the cholera epidemic that ravaged Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, could be much higher than the 9,200 officially tallied so far because of under-reporting during the initial outbreak, a new study suggests.

The study, by Doctors Without Borders, found that incomplete surveillance and data collection, overwhelmed health clinics, the rapid spread of the disease and cholera’s ability to kill quickly contributed to what appears to have been a drastic understating of the death toll.

Haiti was still deeply traumatized from the January 2010 quake when it was hit 10 months later by the cholera epidemic. Studies have traced the outbreak to faulty sanitation practices by a United Nations peacekeeping force.

It was the first time in a century that Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, was infected with cholera, which spreads through water contaminated by feces. Victims die from severe diarrhea and dehydration.

The Doctors Without Borders study, published in the March edition of Emerging Infections Diseases, a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal, is not the first to suggest that Haiti’s cholera victims have been under-reported.

But it provided a basis for calculating some new estimates that if applied nationally could multiply the known death toll by roughly a factor of three, at least in the first six months of the epidemic, when it was most intense.

In some areas, the number of deaths may have been as much as 10 times as high as that reported to the Haitian government, which derived its statistics largely from mortality information supplied by clinics and hospitals.Caribzone_Haiti

“The results suggest that relying on surveillance based primarily in health care facilities provides a biased picture of an epidemic and underestimates illness and death from the disease,” the study said. The risks of under-reporting, it said, increase when, as in Haiti’s case, “the surveillance system has weaknesses and requires adaptation during the first phase of the epidemic.”

Doctors Without Borders was among the first medical aid groups to assist the government in assessing and treating the epidemic, which spread nationwide within a month. By April 2011, the government had improved its surveillance system and had reported nearly 4,900 deaths. Although large, the number implied only a small statistical increase when compared with the normal mortality rate for the country.

Concerned about under-reporting, Doctors Without Borders’ researchers undertook their own study, with the Haitian government’s permission. They conducted surveys of nearly 71,000 people at four areas in northern Haiti — Gonaïves, Cap-Haïtien, North Department, and Gaspard and Zabricots, during the spring of 2011. Based on those surveys, which covered 4.4 percent of the population, the researchers found a nearly threefold increase in deaths, “suggesting a substantially higher cholera mortality rate than previously reported.”

The study stops short of projecting what Haiti’s cholera death toll might be today, but said that “if the estimates presented here are correct, then many deaths in Haiti were never counted in the official statistics during the first wave of the cholera epidemic, despite commendable efforts to promptly implement a national cholera surveillance system.”

Other doctors who worked in the country during the outbreak’s initial phase said the study validated their own anecdotal impressions.

“In the first days and weeks, we saw more people dead than those in facilities,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, a senior health and policy adviser at Partners in Health, a nonprofit medical organization that works in impoverished countries. “This is a very important study that highlights the impact of this epidemic.”

More than five years later, cholera remains entrenched in parts of Haiti, and the infection rate appeared to worsen in 2015. The Associated Pressreported on March 3 from Port-au-Prince, the capital, that cholera had sickened more than 6,000 people so far this year and was killing about 37 a month.

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GUYANA

The GUYANA Youth and Student Movement- the youth arm of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – has rejected calls for the downsizing of Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, saying that it is standing resolutely in support of President David Granger.

The GYSM said the political landscape of Guyana has been transformed with the advancement of coalition politics, a political goal that the PNCR has aspired to form its genesis and to which the party and its members remain committed today.

According to the organization, the greatest asset that the coalition possesses is its willingness to work together, to see the transformation of Guyana and the realization of the promise of a ‘Good Life for all Guyanese’.

However, the organization said it is somewhat disheartening to note some of the recent utterances by factions within the coalition as it relates to miscommunication and misgivings internally.

“The marriage which we all witnessed on February 14, 2015 introduced a breath of fresh air to the people of our country. Our country, which was rescued from dissension and impoverishment by the incompetence of the PPPC over the last two decades, now stands to gain tremendously as we reaffirm the commitment that the days of one party rule came to an end on May 11 2015,” the GYSM said.

It added that the achievements of the APNU+AFC coalition to date are far greater in comparison to the challenges that it faces, and pivotal to these achievements and the country’s continued revival are the duties and powers of the Office of the Minister of State.

“This is why we fervently reject calls for any so-called stripping of the powers of the said office. The GYSM stand firmly behind the decision of His Excellency and the authorities he has vested in the Office of the Minister of State.”

Caribzone_GuyanaThe GYSM said too that it recognizes that the single greatest threat the APNU+AFC coalition faces is the constant attacks by the PPPC whose primary objective is to see its failure.

“No effort is being spared as the opposition contrives and executes dastardly plans; manipulating facts and misleading its supporters in an effort to stir up strife and insight unrest in our country. Even amid perceived controversy the APNU+AFC Coalition remains strong. The GYSM will spare no effort in ensuring that the interest of Guyanese remains on the front burner as we move forward steadfastly with a unified front.”

On Sunday leaders of the Alliance For Change (AFC), a key ally in the coalition Government, at a retreat to review the party’s performance, stated that the current difficulties which the Government has encountered in the continuing revelations arising out of the appointment of the Advisor on Business Development and the related issues have their roots in the concentration of the powers of the office of the Cabinet Secretary, the Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency, and the effective Head of the Presidential Secretariat in a single person.

“The responsibilities of each of the above portfolios are substantial and of critical importance to the smooth operations of the Government, and would benefit from separate appointments.

“The Alliance For Change has mandated its leadership in Cabinet to have these issues raised and addressed as a matter of national importance. “The AFC is committed to responsible and transparent governance, and looks forward to the conclusion of the Code of Conduct for Government Officials and the application of same,” the party had said in a statement.

The AFC also reiterated its commitment to the Coalition Government while recognising that the principles of good governance, transparency and equal opportunities are fundamental to the success of the coalition.

The party also said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the death of Dr Walter Rodney should be released to his family, and that the party supports its early release to the public. The AFC is also of the view that the report affords the country an opportunity to address a difficult period of its history, and hopes that the report forms the basis for national healing and reconciliation.

The coalition member is also of the view that the series of audit reports into apparent irregularities in various Government agencies should be supplemented by a review by experienced independent international forensic auditors, and thereafter be submitted to high quality external professional, independent legal advice with a view to proceeding to prosecution where warranted.

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GRENADA

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell will formally open an International Conference on The Indian Diaspora in Grenada and the Wider Caribbean at the end of April.

The weekend conference, from April 29 to May 1, will commemorate the arrival of East Indians in Grenada on May 1, 1857.

The conference is being organized by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd (ICC), Indian Cultural Organization (Grenada) Inc., and the Indo-Grenadian Heritage Foundation (IHF) with support from Belmont Estate Group of Companies, and the High Commission of India to Trinidad and Tobago.

May 1st, has been officially recognized by the Government since 2009, as Indian Arrival Day. On that historic day, the Maidstone docked at Irwin’s Bay in St. Patrick’s with 287 passengers who were brought as indentured labourers to replace the emancipated African slaves.

Over 22 years (1856 -1878), 3,033 Indians came from India to Grenada to work on the sugarcane estates.

In those days, mortality rates were high, both on the Middle Passage and on various estates where harsh treatment was inflicted by planters and supervisors.

To offer “salvation,” Presbyterian missionaries came from Canada to educate (convert) them which resulted in the sudden disappearance of Hinduism and Islam.

However, some Hindu cultural traditions were able to survive over generations, for example, “borgh” (death anniversaries) and the “mundan” (the shaving of a baby’s hair).Caribzone_Grenada

Indian cuisine has also been retained in the form of roti, curried goat and various types of tarkari (cooked vegetables).

In this African-dominated society, Indians now comprise 2% (1,700) of the total population of 105, 900 persons in Grenada.

Race relations continue to be harmonious to the extent that the rate of inter-racial marriages in Grenada is the highest in the Caribbean.

The Grenada conference aims to bring together academics, historians, teachers, tourism and culture workers, and other persons with an interest in the Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean to discuss their research findings.

A release from the organizers say that space will be provided for less formal presentations from activists and practitioners in the field in order to contribute to the limited store of public knowledge on Indians in Grenada.

“Possible paper topics can include, but are not limited to identity, conversion, resistance, discrimination, politics, history, family histories, migration, literature, gender, orature, performance, art, sports, recreation, accommodation, survival, the media, etc”, it said.

“Preference will be given to papers which make the most references to Indians in Grenada”, it added.

Since 1975, there has been a sporadic series of conferences on the Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean held mainly in Trinidad and Tobago. There is now a plan to organize one conference every year in various parts of the region. Conferences have already been held in St. Vincent, Suriname and Belize.

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