How are Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean managing to control the spread of COVID-19?
While developed countries with well established health systems and huge health budgets struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19, developing countries, like those of the Caribbean, have managed to control the spread of the virus and the outbreaks remain generally localized.
How did the Small Island Developing States of the region manage to do this despite the various challenges that we are faced with?
The answer is quite simple. Caribbean countries have always been responsive to public health interventions. Despite limited resources the Caribbean region has taken the lead on a number of public health initiatives. Over the past two decades, there have been improvements in important health indicators such as maternal and child health, immunization, and access to care, with impressive health outcomes that exceed those of some developed countries. For example, the Caribbean region was the first in the Americas to eliminate poliomyelitis and the first to eliminate indigenous measles and rubella. Also, the Caribbean region has made tremendous progress with respect to the eliminating mother-to-child transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and syphilis, with Cuba being the first to be validated and another set following thereafter.
The Caribbean region has also managed to demonstrate strong leadership at the political level through the various governance mechanisms, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), to ensure that there is coordinated and collective action to respond to public health crises such as COVID-19.
The Caribbean region has also demonstrated evidence of collective action to promote the health of the region through the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH). Within the framework of the CCH, public health organizations, such as PAHO and CARPHA, work together with governments and academic institutions to responds and address public health issues in the region. There is also support and link with other regional institutions, such as CDEMA, the leading regional agency for disaster preparedness and response.
The establishment of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has also demonstrated that the Caribbean leaders recognized the importance of having its own public health body to focus on disease surveillance and to support laboratory testing.
Indeed, the added value of CARPHA was clearly demonstrated during this pandemic, as CARPHA provided support to the region in confirming cases of COVID-19 and provided the necessary guidance for countries to control the spread of the disease.
Managing COVID-19 is a difficult thing to do. Making hard decisions and taking decisive actions are required. Countries in the Caribbean had to make difficult decisions such as closing borders and putting in place containment measures such as curfews and other restrictions. These measures, though they may seem disruptive, have manage to prevent widespread transmission.
Despite our vulnerabilities and limited resources for testing, surveillance and treatment, we are managing to keep our cases localized and to reduce mortality from this virus.
Let us all work together to assist the Caribbean to achieve the highest attainable level of health and sustainable development through the Caribbean Cooperation in Health.