Dengue, malaria remain key problems
-new chairman of CARICOM council By Miranda La Rose

Stabroek News
October 25, 2002

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Suriname's Minister of Education and Community Development Walter Sandriman who has assumed the chairmanship of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) says that the region is facing two very serious problems, dengue and malaria, particularly in Guyana and Suriname.

However, he acknowledged other pressing issues on COHSOD's agenda such as technology in education, accreditation systems, crime and security, the rights of children and HIV/AIDS.

In addressing the opening session of the Seventh Meeting of the COHSOD at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel on Wednesday, Sandriman said that in addition to HIV/AIDS, dengue fever and malaria - both mosquito-borne diseases - will hamper development if they cannot be controlled. Surveillance must be improved and financial resources must be mobilised for programmes on vector control.

In relation to malaria, he said, development projects in the hinterland can experience many problems with workers falling ill. Noting that eco-tourism is growing in the region and more so in Guyana and Suriname, he stressed that malaria must be controlled. Moreover, countries free of malaria transmission must be on the alert for imported cases.


Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary General Dr Carla Barnett asserted that among the achievements of CARICOM over the past year are the acceleration toward the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the signing of the instruments inaugurating the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and the successful negotiations of the Pan Caribbean Programme (PANCAP) in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

However, inspite of CARICOM's relative success, COHSOD is concerned that a review of the health institutions in the region remains outstanding, said COHSOD outgoing chairman, St Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Clayton Burgin.

That review, he observed, is important to the implementation of the CCH II (Caribbean Cooperation on Health), while the outstanding vacancy for a deputy programme manager for culture when preparations are underway for CARIFESTA VIII is another matter of concern.

In his remarks Burgin underscored as "significant landmarks" for the regional integration movement, the acceleration of the CSME and the inauguration of the CCJ.

More recently, he recalled, at the St Lucia special session of Heads of Government a special fund facility to assist Caribbean countries in difficulties was established in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Eastern Caribbean Development Bank (ECDB).

Another outstanding area of achievement, he noted, were steps taken to follow up on the 2001 Nassau Declaration through the PANCAP against HIV/AIDS which continues to attract significant support and has been recognised in many respected circles in the international arena.

PANCAP confab in Georgetown

The PANCAP Second Annual Meeting to be held in Georgetown next Monday and Tuesday, he said, will focus on how best to carry forward the work of this network.

According to Burgin, the OECS countries consider that PANCAP is an invaluable device for resource mobilisation, rationalisation of resources and enhancement of the region's chances to compete in the global arena. Further, it affords an identity in a manner that would not be possible if individual member states were to operate as individual dots on the map. The same, he said, would apply for larger CARICOM member countries which face serious economic challenges at this time.

All the speakers: acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gail Teixeira, Deputy Secretary General Dr Barnett and incoming COHSOD Chairman, Suriname Minister of Education and Community Development Sandriman extolled the achievements of PANCAP in its relatively short period of existence.

Through PANCAP, Burgin noted, the region negotiated an agreement with pharmaceutical companies for cheaper anti-retroviral drugs and has attracted support for substantial assistance to build up the capabilities for care and treatment.

HIV/AIDS fight

PANCAP has submitted a regional proposal to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria aimed at scaling up the regional response in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The battle against HIV/AIDS is also being waged through the European Union-sponsored Institutional Strengthening Programme and implemented by the Project Implementation Unit located at the CARICOM Secretariat.

Progress too, Burgin said, was made through the establishment of the Caribbean Task Force on Crime and Security which has provided guidelines for regional cooperation. Over the past year, too, the CARICOM Youth Ambassador's programme was revived.

And focusing on the Youth Ambassadors' Programme, Sandriman said that Suriname was committed to the development of the goals set out by the youth ambassadors in their Declaration of Paramaribo in August 2002.

He also implored ministers with responsibility for youth to support the youth programme.

Under severe threat

Teixeira noted that the COHSOD meeting was being held at a time when the very existence of the Caribbean countries seem to be under severe threat from the intensification of sophisticated criminal activity; sometimes motivated by the upsurge in drug trafficking. Other threatening factors, she continued, include the increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS, the evident downturn in the region's economies, as well as the inundation by unprepared societies for the high levels of deportation from the North while the region continues to suffer from the migration of its skilled workers to the more developed countries. She urged too that the work of COHSOD should not be promoted in isolation.

Guyana considers some aspects of the COHSOD agenda, she said, to be a priority for the region, citing the evolution of a well-equipped, relevantly educated, resourceful youthful population capable of operating effectively in the CSME and the new global dispensation.