President Dr Irfaan Ali underscored the need for equitable access to resources, a multi-sectoral approach to pandemic response and technology transfer as part of the international community’s support to improve the healthcare systems in developing countries.
The Head of State called for such an action plan while addressing the high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response at the United Nations 78th session in New York, US, earlier on Wednesday.
He noted that these pillars are integral for a comprehensive and cooperative strategy for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
In his address on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), President Ali highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the stark inequalities within the healthcare system among countries around the world. He said that with the region being plagued by high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), CARICOM experienced first-hand how persons living with NCDs were at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
“This reinforces the importance of scaling up the prevention, treatment and control of NCDs in the context of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.”
The Head of State added that while the pandemic disrupted essential health services and the region watched the health system collapsed, CARICOM is on a trajectory to prevent such reoccurrences.
The approach taken not only addresses the challenges in the health sector but all interconnected sectors that were affected.
“CARICOM is implementing multi-sectoral approaches to pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, recognising the multifaceted causes and consequences of pandemics, including their potential impact on social protection, tourism, the environment, agriculture, and ultimately sustainable development.”
The pandemic, he explained, wreaked havoc in Caribbean countries, outside of health implications, it caused high unemployment, deteriorated fiscal indicators, and contraction in GDP, especially in islands solely dependent on the tourism sector.
“The unemployment rate rose between 1 to 5.1 percentage points, while tourism-dependent countries registered debt-to-GDP ratios between 45 to 55%. Exports fell by 26%, and food insecurity grew.”
In this regard, the Guyanese President acknowledged the need to expand the scope and increase the coordination of current financing mechanisms, including surge financing, for more effective and equitable pandemic responses.
“The realisation of the right to development will enhance our capacities to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from pandemics,” he pinpointed.
He stressed however, that while CARICOM welcomes the political declarations and the implementation of mechanisms such as the Pandemic Fund, the realisation of development in the health care system through research and manufacturing capacities can only be realised if countries with the technology commit to robust and effective knowledge transfer for the benefit of all.
“We reiterate the financial, technical, scientific and technological investments are necessary to build the capacity in developing countries.”
President Ali also disclosed that the response of Guyana’s government to pandemic preparedness is holistic. Since taking the helm of Government in 2020, he said that there has been an increased expenditure of 64% per capita in the health sector.
Meanwhile, the President said that addressing vaccine inequality must be one of the priorities moving forward since the inequalities exposed the gaps to ending and recovering from the pandemic.
He took the opportunity to urge Member States to continue the positive discussions in line with the ministerial decision on the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property.
“We must ensure that people everywhere have unhindered equitable access to vaccines and other medical countermeasures, including medicines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and health technologies and other health products,” the President stressed.