Climate resilient health plan remains key priority, Darville tells the World Health Assembly

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The Hon. Dr. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness reaffirmed The Bahamas’ commitment to the World Health Assembly’s agenda of universal health care. He was addressing the 75th Opening Session (Plenary) of the World Health Assembly under the theme: “Health for Peace, Peace for Health”, in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Dr. Darville led a Bahamian delegation to this Assembly.

Dr. Darville said that while The Bahamas is an archipelago of miles of beautiful beaches, its geographical make-up presents challenges to replicate the delivery of health care to the populated islands. And, that the recent shocks of the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have brought these challenges to a head in the most dramatic way.

“The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian to health care facilities in two of our major islands robbed us of the ability to respond adequately to the health crisis that followed,” Dr. Darville said.

He added: “On the heels of our response to Hurricane Dorian we were hit with the COVID 19 pandemic; and the need for us to mount a multi-island response in managing the virus was severely impacted.”

Dr. Darville pointed out that while he was happy to report that The Bahamas is gradually rebuilding better and working on improvements in health care delivery, the country is mindful that the devastating effects of future hurricanes could easily wipe out the progress made.

“But in the midst of these intense challenges, my country remains committed to the WHA global agenda to promote economic recovery and to revitalize health care delivery systems through universal health care,” he said. According to Dr. Darville, access to proper financial and manpower resources, appropriate medicines and diagnostics are essential in the prevention of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, by way of national health insurance and food security.

“Our government is working to recruit public health specialists and allied health professionals that will pave the way for telemedicine platforms and the digitization of medical records,” he told the Assembly. He also said that in order to alleviate the burden caused by COVID-19 and incidences of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), the gaps must be closed by the introduction of adequately funded wellness programs.

“We support the WHA global focus on vaccinating 70 per cent of the world’s population against COVID-19 by the end of 2022,” Dr. Darville said. He added, “The Bahamas is diligently striving to achieve this goal and currently provides free vaccines throughout the country, and with the integration of the Electronic Immunization Registry, expanded programs are going well despite the logistical challenges.”

As the country prepares for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season, he shared that a climate resilient health plan remains a key priority.

“However, like other Small Island Developing States we must fight to overcome the negative impacts of global climate change by reducing carbon footprints,” Dr. Darville said.