“Countries in the Eastern Caribbean are taking concrete steps to build resilience in the health sector. This regional project provides a unique opportunity for member countries of the OECS to work together to strengthen national and regional health systems,” said Tahseen Sayed, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean.
“As a long-term partner of the OECS, the World Bank is committed to help lessen the overwhelming economic burden that extreme weather events and infectious diseases can place on the people and the region.”
The OECS Regional Health Project will help improve climate resilience of select health facilities in Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The project will also strengthen the capacity of health systems in the OECS region to ensure continuity of services following an extreme weather event, boost national and regional disease surveillance systems to detect and respond to infectious diseases more rapidly, strengthen regional emergency coordinating mechanisms, and support an immediate response to select public health emergencies.
According to preliminary assessments conducted by the Pan American Health Organization, more than 75 percent of health facilities in some OECS countries may not be operational after a disaster. The project will finance critical renovations in roofing, electrical safety, plumbing and water storage, lighting, and telecommunications.
In addition, recent outbreaks of Chikungunya (2014) and Zika (2016) and Hurricanes Irma and Maria (2017) highlighted the need for stronger and more coordinated preparedness in the OECS to respond and recover from outbreaks and climate change risks. To address these challenges, the project will also help build institutional capacity and coordination mechanisms.
The project also addresses gender aspects of natural disasters and health emergencies, which can put women at risk of life-threatening complications, including by blocking access to obstetric care and increasing risk to pathogens, such as Zika. The project will support staff training and implementation of coordinated actions to respond to reproductive health needs at the onset of a crisis.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the OECS Commission will coordinate regional activities, including establishing well-coordinated preparedness plans and strategies, conducting an emergency and critical care facilities inventory, and improving laboratory capacity and harmonizing and updating clinical protocols for infectious disease surveillance.
This US$30.6 million project is a combination of interest-free credits and grants financed through the International Development Association credit (IDA), the concessional financing arm of the World Bank. In previous years, the World Bank has provided a total of US$157 million in financing to support heath initiatives across the Caribbean.
Photo © Dr. Horst Vogel