Kim Simplis Barrow and Reema Carmona participated in the subregional consultation organized by UN agencies and partners in Barbados for the adaptation of the Global Strategy to the context of the Caribbean
“This meeting is timely and necessary,” said Carmona during her participation in the consultation organized by the Regional Coordinating Mechanism for the adaptation of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health to the Latin American and Caribbean context. The Mechanism is composed of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO / WHO) and United Nations Secretariat for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Representatives from ministries of health, civil society organizations, academia and UN agencies from 18 countries and territories in the Caribbean participated in the sub regional consultation, which took place on June 1 and 2, 2017 in Barbados.
Carmona highlighted her commitment to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and to the Global Strategy that is aligned with that agenda. “This strategy is an imperative if we want to leave no one behind,” she said. “I may not be a health expert, but my training as an economist reminds me that a healthy population, including that of its women and children, translates handsomely on the economies of scale of any progressive Nations”, the First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago said.
Carmona touched on a number of issues to considerate in the adaptation of the Global Strategy. Among them, she mentioned the need to establish more Hospice Care, “that are accessible to everyone regardless of geography, status or financial standing”. She also mentioned the urgency for more agile drug approval processes that could follow prescribed international standards, following the example of the Bahamas. “This would not only save time, but also money to governments and the availability of drugs would decrease patient morbidity and mortality, easing the suffering of our loved ones”, she added.
Carmona remarked the need to create a more motivated, productive workforce and healthier citizens to prevent NCDs, as well as to engage children and adolescents in their own care and well-being by empowering them to be advocates against childhood obesity; and to use social media as a way of reaching the young generation and petition for legislative reform to eradicate child marriage.
The Global Strategy builds on the UN initiative “Every Woman, Every Child”, which a group of Caribbean First Ladies, including Carmona and Simplis Barrow, have worked for the past two years to make a reality. Its sub regional adaptation, “Every Caribbean Woman, Every Caribbean Child”, has provided a platform for advocacy and action on key social determinants that negatively influence the health and development of countries.
Simplis Barrow considered that the new Global Strategy is in line with Every Caribbean Woman, Every Caribbean Child, and described the subregional consultation as an opportunity to chart the way forward in line with the priorities, policies and development agendas of the subregion.
The wife of the Prime Minister of Belize, who also serves as a Special Envoy for Women and Children, indicated that reducing adolescent pregnancy, cervical cancer, HIV, eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV, child marriage and human trafficking are among these priorities. “Too many women, children and adolescents have little or no access to essential and quality health and education services,” she said, and added, “they are constantly facing violence and discrimination; they cannot fully participate in society.”
The new Global Strategy also places adolescents at the center. In the Caribbean, there are approximately 1.6 million adolescents. Half of them are women and it is estimated that 20% percent of women in the Caribbean have had at least one child by the age of 19.
“The investments we make today in the health and well-being of our women, children and adolescents will help us to build more peaceful, sustainable and inclusive societies for future generations,” said Simplis Barrow. For this, she indicated, “we must ensure that we pursue a coordinated, solidarity-based, financially sustainable and partnership approach.”