CARPHA to address infectious diseases surveillance and response in member states

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Front row, left to right: His Excellency Dongil Oh Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; and Dr Lisa Indar, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Director CARPHA.  Back row, left to right: Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; His Excellency Dr Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General Human and Social Development, Caribbean Community (CARICOM); and Dr Mark Sami, Corporate Services Director, CARPHA

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – CARICOM Member States are poised to benefit from a fund to strengthen laboratory systems and networks, and human resources capacities in health sectors to accurately detect, characterize and treat infectious diseases.

Financing for the project “Strengthening Health Systems in CARICOM to Address Infectious Diseases” is provided by the Republic of Korea through the Republic of Korea-CARICOM (ROK-CARICOM) Cooperation Fund, through the CARICOM Secretariat. Under this grant valued at US$656,743, CARPHA will be able to execute a series of interventions to the benefit of its Member States.

The launch of the project took place on 13 May 2022, at the headquarters of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). In attendance were Terrence Deyalsingh, minister of health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; His Excellency Dongil Oh ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; His Excellency Dr Douglas Slater, assistant secretary-general Human and Social Development, Caribbean Community (CARICOM); and Jinwoo Jung, deputy head of mission, embassy of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking at the ceremony Dr Lisa Indar, director, surveillance, disease prevention and control, brought remarks on behalf of Dr Joy St John, executive director of CARPHA.

Dr Lisa Indar expressed appreciation for the continued support of the Republic of Korea. She acknowledged the role played by the Korean Embassies in Venezuela, and in Trinidad and Tobago in accessing these resources under the Republic of Korea-CARICOM Cooperation Fund.

Dr Indar highlighted the benefits of the project stating: “The project will support Train the Trainer workshops in the Shipping of Infectious Substances conducted and certified by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), as well as supporting the enhancement of biosafety and biosecurity measures in our Member States and the conduct of training under the Caribbean Regional Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (CR-FELTP).”

The project also enables the procurement of a KingFisher Flex Purification System and the required reagents, which will be housed at the CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory. This equipment is a primary step in the PCR process and will contribute to the CMML’s continued pandemic response for COVID-19 detection, as well as ongoing surveillance for diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses, and routine respiratory surveillance of influenza and non-influenza viruses.

In 2006 relations between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Republic of Korea (RoK) were strengthened through the agreement for the establishment of a consultation and cooperation mechanism between the government of the CARICOM and the Republic of Korea. Since then, there has been a steady growth in understanding and collaboration between CARICOM and the Republic of Korea.

“The Republic of Korea has been very responsive to the needs in our region, providing over 1.5 million US dollars’ worth of resources for health systems strengthening to address infectious diseases and support for our regional COVID 19 pandemic response. This tangible demonstration of solidarity in health at a time of need was much appreciated,” stated Dr Douglas Slater, assistant secretary-general, human and social development, CARICOM, speaking on behalf of Dr Carla Barnett, CARICOM secretary-general. He further stated: “History will show that Korea was one of the first larger economies to reach out to us in our time of need, an action we cannot and will not forget.”

In his remarks, His Excellency Dongil Oh, Ambassador of The Republic of Korea to the Republic of Trinidad underscored CARPHA’s role of converging the various health ministries and capacity-building for medical staff across CARICOM Member States, which has been central to responding and mitigating the health and socio-economic effects of COVID-19 in the region. He added: “I am firmly convinced that this project will serve as a critical stepping stone for CARICOM Member States to bring infectious diseases under control.”

Speaking at the ceremony Terrence Deyalsingh, minister of health, republic of Trinidad and Tobago praised the work of CARPHA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The launch of a project of this kind underlines the need to establish robust and resilient healthcare systems in the CARICOM region. This partnership with the Republic of Korea will help us strengthen not only a national response in Trinidad and Tobago, but also a CARICOM response”.

He added: “Strong healthcare systems bolster, not only the supply and delivery of quality healthcare to CARICOM residents and citizens, but can curb the potential detrimental and irrevocable effects of current and future pandemics.”

Currently, CARPHA is executing another project funded by the Republic of Korea. Through a Memorandum of Understanding with CARICOM, CARPHA is procuring personal protective equipment (PPEs) for nine of its Member States valued at US$400,000 which is part of a larger support of US$1M provided to 15 Caribbean Countries.

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