Amid global challenges by small states accessing COVID-19 essential medical supplies, CARICOM Member States have received a significant donation from the World Health Organisation, the Jack Ma Foundation and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The supplies, worth over US$700,000, arrived just over a week ago in Barbados – the home base of the Integrated Regional Logistical Hub, operated by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, CDEMA, which has since distributed them to CARICOM Member States and Associated Members.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who had requested the support of WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during her recently ended Chairmanship of CARICOM, received the supplies on behalf of the Community at a special airport ceremony.
“I want to thank the WHO for being responsive, but also for going beyond that because what you see today is only one example of that generous commitment to work on behalf of the smaller states,” the Prime Minister said at the ceremony.
“What is important is that we not only have access, which we didn’t as a small region as CARICOM on our own, but that we are also looking to be able to procure at prices that are usually only available for much larger countries and populations,” Prime Minister Mottley said.
“Therefore, St. Kitts with 40,000 people will have the same access as Nigeria, with 200 million people, and that is the fundamental policy space that we have negotiated to make a difference to the people of the Region.”
“This makes the difference to who gets drugs; this makes a difference to who will get a vaccine; this makes a difference to the frontline workers,” she added.
Guyana welcomed its share of the supplies with a special ceremony at the airport on Thursday, where the Civil Defence Commission and Ministry of Health also applauded the collaborative effort.
“In responding to COVID-19 and any emergency of disaster, it is important for a collaborative response, and we welcome donations and support from all the different stakeholders as we collectively respond to COVID-19,” Director General of the Civil Defence Commission Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig told the ceremony.
CDEMA’s Executive Director (ag) Elizabeth Riley has noted the role being played by the Logistics Hub in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its wider work for the region.
“The CDEMA Coordinated Integrated Regional Logistics Hub (IRLH) serves as a trans-shipment point for COVID-19 related relief supplies and will aid the coordination of humanitarian logistics. The IRLH is established as part of the COVID-19 response and will be available throughout the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane and possibly beyond as a legacy facility. Maritime operations for the hub are based at the Barbados Port and Air operations are based at the Grantley Adams International Airport – GAIA. The Government of Canada has re-allocated CAD $401,359 from the Targeted Support to CDEMA Project, towards the establishment and operations of the hub and operations are supported by the World Food Programme,” Riley said.