PAHO highlights health achievements, challenges for Caribbean

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Carissa F Etienne, says there have been many achievements and successes as she highlighted major health progress and challenges in the Americas, including the Caribbean, over the past five years.

She said that the achievements and successes were due largely to member states working ever more closely with PAHO to shape and to take responsibility for the results of the technical cooperation.

“While there is much to be celebrated, there was unequal progress, and inequality emerged as a barrier to greater achievements,” said the Dominican-born Etienne, who was elected as PAHO director five years ago.

Presenting her quinquennial report of the Director 2013-2017 to health ministers and other high-level delegates from throughout the Americas, attending the 29th Pan American Sanitary Conference here, Ettienne report details technical cooperation by the Pan American Sanitary Bureau, PAHO's secretariat, in areas ranging from strengthening preparedness for disasters and other health emergencies, to support for legislation and regulation of potentially harmful products.

PAHO said examples of this technical cooperation during the five-year period of the report include helping countries prepare for the possible introduction of Ebola virus in 2014, and helping them cope with the rapid and wide spread of Chikungunya virus in 2014 and 2015.

An especially significant challenge faced by the countries during the period was the Zika virus, which spread throughout the region in 2015 and 2016, causing a sharp increase in birth anomalies and the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome, PAHO said.

“The bureau worked with countries and partners to track the epidemic while providing critical support in clinical and laboratory diagnosis of cases, case management, and vector control, among others,” Etienne said, adding “we also worked with partners to provide evidence-based, ethical guidelines and advice to member states.”

Other key PAHO support for member countries included assistance in responding to natural disasters that included the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador in 2016 and the category-5 Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc in the Caribbean the same year.

To strengthen its technical cooperation in emergencies, PAHO said it recently merged its disasters and humanitarian assistance program with its epidemic alert and response team to create the new Health Emergencies Department, paralleling a similar move by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report highlights three historic public health milestones during the reporting period: the regional elimination of endemic rubella and congenital rubella syndrome from the region in 2015 and the elimination of endemic measles in 2016.

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