Equitable access to health care across all territories is the only way for countries to better combat both the short and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other health care crises.
That case was made by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, as she addressed a World Health Organization (WHO) virtual press conference on Tuesday.
She said the current pandemic has played havoc on predominately smaller and poorer nations, and regions such as the Caribbean have been left on the sidelines in terms of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and other necessary medications, when compared to larger nations.
“In the Caribbean, our journey has been torturous over the last year…. The bold reality is that our market size, in many instances, is simply too small to command the attention of global pharmaceutical companies or, indeed, of other suppliers of goods in the normal supply chain that will lead the therapeutic distribution [and] vaccine distribution.
“The bottom line is that we have also separately been regarded by the global community as countries that have come out of the depths of poverty, and therefore are not deserving of assistance in the traditional ways normally reserved for the most vulnerable,” the Prime Minister contended.
With the decline in global GDP this year expected to be around four per cent, compared to the 18 per cent drop experienced by Barbados in 2020, Mottley also underscored the need for larger countries to be more understanding in their approach towards financial aid for smaller, tourism-dependent nations that are at greater risk of a financial collapse at the end of the pandemic.
“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,” Mottley said.
The Barbadian leader said she wants the Development Committee of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which she chairs and will meet this week, to start making a case for the use of “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, which is the social and economic losses that have been sustained in the last decade”.
Prime Minister Mottley also cautioned WHO member states to learn from the mistakes and difficulties experienced during this pandemic.
She said that while COVID-19 has been devastating globally, other health and social challenges remain on the horizon, with many of them threatening to cause a wider scale of economic disruption if necessary administrative and social changes are not implemented.
“My friends, this will not be the last pandemic, it will not be the last one for us. History is replete with examples and we have to determine what we will learn from our experience over the course of last year. For many, the 1918-1920 Spanish flu pandemic is too far in the recesses of our recent memory, such that we made fundamental mistakes that we should never allow anyone to make again.
“If we do not get the fundamental development equation correct, if we do not work together, if we do not appreciate that we can work together if we are to achieve a fairer and healthier world, then we run the risk of seeing millions of persons die again, in circumstances where different policy responses or similar policy responses with different scale and different pace of execution can hopefully have a different result, in ensuring that [fewer] people will become victims to awful epidemics and pandemics,” Mottley said. (SB)