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Barbados Meets All IMF Targets; Set to Get Millions More

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IMF’s Deputy Division Chief for the Caribbean, Bert van Selm gave Barbados a good report.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday May 20, 2019 – Barbados is in line for an
additional US$49 million under its Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) after passing the first review.

Following a 10-day mission to the country to review the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme which is supported by the EFF, the IMF’s Deputy Division Chief for the Caribbean, Bert van Selm, said the government “continues to make strong progress in implementing its ambitious and comprehensive economic reform programme”.

“The Barbadian authorities continue to make good
progress in implementing structural benchmarks under the EFF, including those
that contribute to an improved business climate,” he said.

 “All
programme targets for end of March, under the Extended Fund Facility have been
met, some with wide margins,” he added, pointing to the more than doubling of
the international reserves which had reached a low of US$220 million or five
week of cover at the end of May last year; the completion of the domestic debt
restructuring exercise; the targets for the primary surplus; central government
grants to state-owned enterprises, and social spending.

The IMF official said the rapid completion of
the domestic part of the debt restructuring had been very helpful in reducing
economic uncertainty, and the new terms agreed with creditors had put debt on a
clear downward trajectory.

He added that progress being made by the
authorities in furthering good-faith discussions with external creditors was also
welcomed. 

Once the IMF Executive Board considers the review, which is expected to happen next month, the US$49 million will be made available to Barbados, bringing the total disbursement so far under the EFF to US$98 million.

Reacting to
van Selm’s report, Prime Minister Mottley said Barbados economy was headed in the
right direction and was passing the right road signs on the journey to success
and transformation.

“We have a few more road signs to pass, but as
long as the people of Barbados stay the course, I assure you that we shall be
successful in being able to overcome what really was a very turbulent and
difficult legacy,” she said, stressing that while she was grateful for the IMF’s
encouraging report, the country had to stay the course.

“I will be jubilant when Barbados has reached the first signs of transformation.”

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PAHO Warns of Complex Dengue Situation in the Caribbean

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WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday August 20, 2019 – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned of the complex situation of dengue in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is currently experiencing a new epidemic cycle of the disease after two years of low incidence.

According to
the latest PAHO epidemiological update, during the first seven months of 2019,
more than two million people contracted the disease and 723 died. The number of
cases exceeds the total number of cases reported in 2017 and 2018, although so
far, it remains lower than the number recorded in 2015-2016.

“The region
is experiencing a new epidemic cycle of dengue, with a notable increase in
cases,” said Dr Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable
Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health. The climate, environmental
management and the mosquito’s capacity to adapt may have caused the situation
to increase in complexity.

Another
characteristic of the current epidemic is that children under the age of 15
appear to be among the most affected. In Guatemala, they represent 52 per cent
of total cases of severe dengue, while in Honduras, they constitute 66 per cent
of all confirmed deaths. According to Dr Espinal, this may be due to the fact
that their age means they have been less exposed to the virus in the past and
may therefore lack immunity.

Dengue is
caused by a virus that has four different, but closely related, serotypes:
DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4, all of which circulate in the Americas. When a
person recovers from the infection, he acquires lifelong immunity against that
particular serotype. However, subsequent infections caused by other serotypes
increase the risk of acquiring more severe forms of dengue. Serotype 2 is one
of the deadliest and is the one currently affecting children and adolescents.

The ten
countries currently most affected by dengue, in terms of new cases per 100,000
inhabitants, are Nicaragua, Brazil, Honduras, Belize, Colombia, El Salvador,
Paraguay, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela. Honduras and Nicaragua have already
declared national-level epidemiological alerts this year to expedite the
response.

A call to eliminate mosquito breeding
sites in and around houses

Given the
situation, PAHO has already urged the entire community and all sectors of
society to work together to eliminate mosquito breeding sites, particularly
those around the home.

“Dengue is a
domestic and community sanitation problem,” said José Luis San Martin, PAHO’s
Regional Advisor on Dengue. “The most effective way to combat it is to
eliminate its breeding sites in order to prevent the mosquito from reproducing
because without mosquitoes there would be no transmission of dengue.”

According to
San Martin the community as a whole must get rid of all unused objects where
water can accumulate, such as drums, old tires, cans, bottles and vases.
Domestic water tanks must be hermetically sealed to avoid them becoming
hatcheries.

“Eliminating
hatcheries would hit the mosquito hard by interrupting its breeding cycle,
therefore reducing the mosquito population,” he said.

Priority: saving lives

PAHO has
also called for health professionals to be trained to diagnose and adequately
manage patients with dengue and other arboviruses such as Zika and Chikungunya.

“The proper
management of patients is a priority that can save lives,” said San
Martin, urging the population to avoid self-medicating and to instead visit a
health system early when experiencing symptoms of the disease.

The most
common symptoms are high fever (40 °C), severe headache, pain behind the
eyeballs, and joint and muscle aches. Warning signs of dengue that require urgent
medical attention include severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid
breathing, bleeding from the mucous membranes, fatigue, irritability and presence
of blood in the vomit.

There is no specific treatment for dengue (or severe dengue), but timely detection, access to medical care and proper management of the patient can reduce complications and disease progression. Death from dengue is almost always avoidable.

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Guyanese Teachers to be Trained to teach Venezuelan Migrant Children

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday August 20,
2019 –
Nineteen
teachers will soon begin training which will equip them with the necessary
skills to teach English as a second language to children of Venezuelan migrants
who’ve travelled to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to escape
hardship in the Spanish-speaking nation.

The
Government through the Ministry of Education said it has been working with the
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to develop
educational interventions, which will improve the learning and communication
skills of these children. Eight communities in Region One are expected to
benefit from this initiative.

UNHCR
representative on the Multi-Stakeholder Committee, Cecilie Guerrero made this
announcement at yesterday’s stakeholder meeting, which was held at the
Department of Citizenship. The Committee is tasked with monitoring the arrival
of Venezuelan migrants into Guyana.

Guerrero
informed the Committee that 17 teachers from Region One and two from Georgetown
will gather in Mabaruma later this week for the training, which will last until
the end of the month. The two Georgetown-based teachers, she said, will be
trained to be trainers. These teachers will be tasked with training their
colleagues when and wherever the need arises.

The
Committee was informed too that the Canadian based facilitator, who will be
conducting the training, arrived in Guyana earlier in the day.

So far, in
excess of 800 Venezuelan children are enrolled in schools.

Meanwhile,
the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working along with the Guyana
Water Incorporated (GWI) to implement a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
project, which focuses on the provision and storage of water, sanitation and
hygiene promotion interventions in six communities in Region One.

As part of
this project, a 100-metre well will be drilled at Whitewater, Region One, to
provide water on a consistent basis to residents. This will complement the rain
water harvesting tanks, water storage facilities and portable water filters,
which have already been handed over to the communities.

Given the positive impacts made in Barima-Waini through the pilot project, the two entities are now looking to roll out the project in Cuyuni – Mazaruni (Region Seven). It will target three communities in its initial phase: Eteringbang, Arrau and Kurutuku.

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Humanitarian Assistance to be Scaled-up for Millions of Venezuelans in Need

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Venezuelans waiting for food distribution. (Photo credit: NRC/Ingebjørg Kårstad)

CARACAS, Venezuela, Tuesday August 20,
2019 –
The United
Nations humanitarian wing launched a new Response Plan (HRP) on Wednesday, that
aims to help around 2.6 million people in Venezuela through to the end of the
year, almost half of whom are youth.

Noting that
the plan “only represents a limited number of all people in need”, the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that US$223
million was required from donors, to achieve this goal. 

A collective
effort to coordinate and intensify the ongoing humanitarian response, the plan
aims to significantly mitigate the impact of the crisis on the country’s most
vulnerable populations.

“The HRP
includes 1.2 million girls and boys, in the areas of health, water, sanitation
and hygiene, food security, nutrition, protection, shelter and non-food items
and education,” Peter Grohmann, Humanitarian Coordinator for Venezuela, said in
the strategy’s foreword.

During the
first half of 2019, the UN set up a coordination system to increase
humanitarian response capacities that included national and international
non-governmental humanitarian organizations (NGOs) and the International Red
Cross and Red Crescent Movement as an observer, with OCHA lending overarching
support.

“This HRP
provides an internationally recognized framework for a principled, transparent,
well-coordinated and effective response, targeting the most vulnerable people,”
said the newly designated Humanitarian Coordinator, who leads the humanitarian
country team. “I urgently call on donors to support this plan.” 

At the same
time, Grohmann also called on the Venezuelan Government, society and the
international community “to work together and jointly commit to helping
Venezuelans in need of assistance, including by creating consensus on ways to
finance the plan”. 

By
strengthening the capacity of humanitarian organizations and further opening
the operational space in country, the HRP lays the foundation to enlarge its
response next year to reach a larger portion of the population.

While its operational capacities are on target to deliver, the HRP is “modest in terms of responding to the scale of needs”, Grohmann maintained, adding that the plan would be revised and expanded next year, “based on new available information on needs and capacities”.

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