Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘Political will’ of Caribbean states key in response to pandemic, says Mottley


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As Barbados received its first tranche of vaccines today from the COVAX Facility, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley called for coordinated action on the part of Caribbean countries to bring an end to the pandemic.

Speaking during a virtual press conference hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Mottley said such coordination would include measures such as collective shutdowns, instituting protocols and policy responses.

She stressed that the ball rested with the “political will of member states” as such action was needed for a fairer and healthier world.

“If we do not get the fundamental development equation correct; if we do not work together; if we do not appreciate that we can only work together if we are to achieve a fair and healthier world, then we run the risk of seeing millions of persons die again in circumstances where policy responses can have a different result to ensure that less people become victim of epidemics and pandemics,” the Prime Minister warned.

However, she noted that the answer to fight the pandemic was simply for countries to work together and for a level of global moral leadership.

Describing the journey for Caribbean countries as “torturous over the last year” as they came up against larger countries in trying to access vaccines, Mottley expressed support for WHO’s first call to action for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments within and between countries.

She said that Barbados and its Caribbean counterparts were separated by the global communities as countries emerging from the depths of poverty and not deserving of assistance in traditional ways, usually reserved for the most vulnerable.

“This has made life difficult . . . . Globally, this has been a difficult exercise because we are seeing the spikes literally grow and we have not had access even when we are prepared to pay,” she stated.

However, the Prime Minister pointed out that the struggle did not end there. She outlined that the post COVID-19 recovery budget and plans to protect and prioritise the health and social sectors were felt by many.

Drawing examples from Barbados, Mottley said that the fall in the gross domestic product, particularly in the loss of its production and productive capacity, threatened to set the island back more than a decade.

“Regrettably, we continue to be treated globally as one of those countries that is not deserving of concessional capital, even as we face the most difficult crisis that we have faced in a century,” she said.

But, she has vowed to take these and other issues up with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund later this week, during a meeting under her chairmanship.

“We will begin to start to put our case for the need to use different criteria for determining how countries should access serious concessional capital most needed now, in order to stave off the worst aspects of this pandemic but, more importantly, to deal with the long lasting consequences of the pandemic, which are the social and economic losses that have been sustained in the last decade,” she said.

During her address, the Prime Minister noted that the call to action for equitable services and infrastructure in all communities was also of importance.

She added that primary health care for everyone was also vital if Caribbean countries were to bring their populations out of the difficult times.             

“This will not be the last pandemic. We have to determine what we will learn of our experience over the last year,” Mottley said. (BGIS)


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