This article by Tony Best appeared in The New York Carib News.
Act now and avert a global public health emergency.
That, in essence, was the urgent demand of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Guyana, Barbados and their Caribbean neighbors and the plea was made at the United Nations in New York at a time when the U.S. was seeking to tame rising domestic worries about the potential spread of the deadly Ebola epidemic to America’s shores. Essentially, what the island-nations and coastal states that belong to Caricom are asking is that the UN’s specialized agencies and rich states ramp up their aid to the African states which are now bearing the full brunt of the deadly Ebola virus disease.
The Caribbean also fears that the outbreak of the highly contagious disease would jump from Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone and spread to the rest of Africa and to developing nations in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Pacific and the Middle East. Thousands of victims have already died from Ebola in four African states.
“The specter of the deadly Ebola disease and the scourge of HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases have the potential to significantly impact our people and threaten the gains made so far by Small Island developing states,” warned Senator Arnold Nicholson, Jamaica’s Foreign Minister in an address to the General Assembly.
“We cannot ignore the link between our efforts to spur development and the need to safeguard the health of our people,” Nicholson added. “The challenge to security and sustainable development posed by threats to global public health have been devastatingly illustrated by the recent outbreak of the Ebola epidemic.”
Barbados agreed but put it differently.
“The Ebola outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and a threat to global security,” said Senator Maxine McLean, Barbados’ Foreign Minister. “It also threatens the peacebuilding and development gains of the most affected countries.”
That was why, she went on, there was an urgent need to accelerate the mobilization of resources to assist the affected countries and halt the epidemic.”
Trinidad and Tobago, whose Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was quick to explain to the UN that the epidemic’s potential threat was the main the reason her country had co-sponsored a Security Council resolution calling for prompt international action to combat the “Ebola virus disease.”
She praised UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, for organizing an “Ebola summit” that gave countries a chance “to take steps “to combat the spread” of the virus “and “supplement the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency response.”
The U.S. recently recorded its first Ebola case when a Liberian, Eric Duncan arrived in Texas from Monrovia and showed symptoms of the deadly disease. He is now in a Dallas medical center in critical condition. That case raised the fears of hundreds of millions of Americans that the virus would jump to their shores.
When Guyana addressed the UN, its President Donald Rabindranauth Romotar described the epidemic as a “global problem” that required an immediate response of a scale far beyond what was currently being done.
Suriname, a close neighbor of Guyana, called the outbreak an “imminent threat” which must be met head-on, said Winston Lackin, the Republic’s Foreign Minister. That was why Suriname was working with “neighboring countries” in the sub-region as well as the global community “to design and implement programs” that would prevent “the spread of this deadly virus.”
Wilfred P. Erlington, Belize’s Foreign Minister and Attorney General, didn’t simply express concerns that the disease was “increasing exponentially.” He complained “that international health agencies “did not respond more vigorously to the Ebola outbreak many months ago.”
Dominica too raised the alarm while appealing to the UN, its agencies and other international organization not to allow the disease to reverse the region’s health care successes.
“The specter of the deadly Ebola disease and the scourge of HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases have the potential to significantly impact our people and threaten the gains made so far by small island developing states,” said Charles Savarin, Dominica’s President. “This myriad of challenges, therefore call for collective global action to protect the gains that small island states like Dominica have been able to achieve over the past two decades, and to lay a path for development that is sustainable and people focused.”
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