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Haiti Reaches One-Year Free of Cholera Mark

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More than nine years after the cholera outbreak began in Haiti, it is being reported that the last confirmed case was reported during the last week of January 2019.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Friday January 24,
2020
– The cholera outbreak in Haiti that began in October
2010, affecting over 820,000 people and killing 9,792, has been stopped in its
tracks, with the country reaching one-year free of confirmed cases this week.

The
achievement follows concerted efforts from Haiti, the Pan American Health
Organization (PAHO) and other partner agencies to address the root causes of
cholera, including through increased surveillance to detect and respond to
possible-flare-ups; the implementation of rapid diagnosis initiatives; and the
treatment of cases with adequate rehydration and care.

“Cholera
is a disease of inequity that unduly sickens and kills the poorest and most
vulnerable people – those without access to clean water and sanitation,” said
PAHO Director, Dr Carissa Etienne. “Death from cholera is preventable with
tools that we have today but to ensure that cholera remains a distant memory, we
must also accelerate investments in clean water and adequate sanitation in
Haiti.”

The
last confirmed case of cholera was reported in I’Estère in the Artibonite
department of Haiti during the last week of January 2019. It was a boy under
the age of five, who was admitted to hospital on January 24 but recovered
shortly thereafter.

Rapid
detection and testing are key to controlling outbreaks. PAHO and the Haitian
Ministry of Health’s LaboMoto project, which works on the ground to enable
field nurses to rapidly transport samples from treatment centres to
laboratories on motorcycles, has enabled testing of suspected cases to increase
from 21per cent in 2017 to 95 per cent in 2019.

LaboMoto
is part of a three-step strategy to ensure that all suspected cases from
high-risk areas are tested; that random sampling of patients with diarrhea is
implemented in all areas of the country; and that event-based surveillance is
also carried out by epidemiologists.

PAHO
has also supported Haiti in equipping primary health clinics with trained
personnel that are able to respond quickly and manage cases; and in the
implementation of cholera vaccination programs. For example, over 900,000
people were vaccinated following Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Despite
progress, PAHO says, Haiti remains behind the rest of Latin America and the
Caribbean in terms of access to potable water and sanitation. Over a third of
the population (35 per cent) lack basic drinking water services and two-thirds
(65 per cent) have limited or no sanitation services. This is far below the
regional average of 3 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

“While
cholera is under control for now, we must collectively remain alert and ready
to maintain this status and verify elimination. Only when we ensure all
Haitians enjoy access to clean water and sanitation can we breathe more
freely,” said Dr Etienne.

In
order to end cholera in Haiti and receive validation from the World Health
Organization (WHO) for eliminating the disease, PAHO says the country must
maintain effective surveillance systems and remain cholera-free for two more
years (three years in total).

It said early detection and response to possible flare-ups must also continue and addressing the issue of clean water and sanitation for all Haitian people is key to preventing the transmission of cholera, and other water-borne diseases, in the long-term.

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Search Continues for Survivors of Dominica Plane Crash

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ROSEAU, Dominica, Monday February 17,
2020
– The search continues
for four people who were in a small plane when it crashed in the sea off Marigot,
Dominica yesterday evening.

The four – two passengers and two pilots – were headed to Dominica in the privately-owned, French-registered Piper F-OGKO when it went down in the waters on the northeastern coast of the island, close to the Douglas Charles Airport.

Photos circulating on social media show a search team heading out by boat.

The single-engine
aircraft was reportedly one of several heading to Dominica on an outing
organized by Ailes de Guadeloupe club.

The identities of those on board have not yet been disclosed.

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St Vincent Government Denies Coronavirus Case; Says One Person Only Tested Positive for Flu

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More than 70,000 people have been infected by the virus and there have been at least 1,770 deaths.

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Monday
February 17, 2020
– The
Ministry of Health has moved to dispel reports of any confirmed cases of the
novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, as it confirmed that several people
who recently travelled to China, the epicentre of the epidemic, remain in
quarantine and two tests turned out negative.

The ministry
had reported on February 7 that a Vincentian returning from China had been
placed in quarantine for 14 days as recommended by the World Health Organization
(WHO).

“The person
is monitored on a twice-daily basis by health care workers. This citizen was
the first person to be put under quarantine. Since then, 16 other persons have
been quarantined. On Wednesday, February 12, 2020, three Chinese nationals (two
residents and one citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines) returned from China
having left there on February 10, 2020. They travelled through Germany and
Barbados. Those three individuals have been quarantined along with all of the
other 13 members of their households,” the Ministry said.

It stressed
that none of the three travellers, all of whom also receive twice-daily checks
by health care workers, has shown any signs or symptoms of infection with
COVID-19.

However, the
ministry added, last Friday, during a health check, a member of one household
was found to have a low grade fever.

“This person
is not one of the travellers from China and none of the travellers had any
symptoms. However, out of an abundance of caution, swabs were taken for laboratory
analysis from the person with the fever and the contact who had travelled,” it
said.

Those
samples were transported by the Regional Security System (RSS) aircraft on
Saturday morning to Trinidad to be analyzed at the Caribbean Public Health
Agency (CARPHA) Public Health Laboratory in Port of Spain.

“The laboratory
reported that both samples were negative for COVID-19. The MOHWE [Ministry of
Health, Wellness and the Environment] Medical Laboratory, however, found that
the person with the fever had Influenza B, a form of the flu.”

The Ministry
said it would continue to monitor all 17 persons under quarantine for the
recommended 14 days and will take all measures necessary to safeguard the
health and wellbeing of the country’s population.

It also stressed that there was no connection between the AIDA Perla cruise ship which docked at Port Kingstown earlier this month and the individuals under quarantine.

More than 70,000 people have been infected by the virus and there have been at least 1,770 deaths.

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Canadian Prime Minister Cancels Trip to Caribbean Amid Protests at Home

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Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has his hands full with an anti-pipeline protest at home.

OTTAWA, Canada, Monday February 17,
2020
– Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau will not be meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders
this week after all, choosing to remain at home to deal with a protest that is shutting
down train service across the country.

Trudeau had
been scheduled to participate in the CARICOM 31st Intersessional Heads of
Government Conference in Barbados to further strengthen his government’s partnership
with the regional grouping and, according to media reports in Canada, make a pitch
for a United Nations Security Council seat.

However, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday evening said he had cancelled the trip and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne would represent Canada at the February 18-19 meeting instead.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will attend in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s place.

“Following
the government’s ongoing efforts to address infrastructure disruptions across
the country, the prime minister will convene the Incident Response Group
tomorrow to discuss steps forward,” the statement read.

“Our priority remains the safety and security of all Canadians and the swift resolution of this issue to restore service across the rail system in accordance with the law.”

Protesters
opposed to the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project through the
Wet’suwet’en nation’s traditional territory in British Columbia have blockaded
rail lines in parts of the country. And Trudeau has been criticized for his
overseas travel while the situation remains unresolved.

He returned
to Canada last Friday after spending a week in Ethiopia, Kuwait, Senegal and
Germany.

During his trip to Barbados, which was to begin today, he had been scheduled to discuss with the regional leaders, challenges of mutual interest, including protecting oceans and the environment in the fight against climate change in a region that is particularly vulnerable to its impacts, as well as creating good jobs for the middle class and sustainable economic growth. He was also to participate in group discussions and bilateral meetings with the CARICOM leaders.

A statement from the regional side stated that Trudeau, who had contacted CARICOM Chairman, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, and CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque about the cancellation due to the “pressing domestic matters”, said the Canadian Prime Minister reiterated his desire to strengthen ties between the region and Canada and looked forward to another opportunity to interact with the leaders.

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Hypocrisy Unmasked at the OAS | Sir Ronald Sanders

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Maria Fernanda Espinosa “handled, with remarkable grace and aptitude, difficult interrogations from the representatives of the US and governments supporting the re-election of the incumbent, Luis Almagro.”

By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON, United States, Monday
February 17, 2020
– If
candidates were to get a prize for making the best case for why they are best
suited to be Secretary-General of the OAS, María Fernanda Espinosa would have
easily walked away with it when the three contenders for the post appeared
before the Permanent Council of the Organization on February 12.

Showing all
the competence, knowledge and experience that come from holding high
ministerial offices and the Presidency of the UN General Assembly, Ms Espinosa
handled, with remarkable grace and aptitude, difficult interrogations from the
representatives of the US and governments supporting the re-election of the
incumbent, Luis Almagro.

The
objective of the interrogations from this group of countries, which included
Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia, was to try to paint Ms Espinosa as an ideologue
who would act against decisions and declarations of the OAS, engineered by a
majority of 18 delegations, against the Maduro and Ortega governments of
Venezuela and Nicaragua and the Presidency of Evo Morales of Bolivia which was
ended by a coup d’état, however else it is portrayed.

This group
of governments strongly support Mr Almagro because, in the abuse of his office,
he has been their most enthusiastic standard bearer against the Maduro and
Ortega governments.

So
preoccupied is this group of governments with trying to ensure that Mr Almagro
remains in position, that they have, so far, refused to recognize that Ms
Espinosa is not an ideologue and is, in fact, a realist; a pragmatic leader who
fully understands that the success of any organization depends on its capacity
to build consensus among all its stakeholders. 
Incidentally, the regime in Bolivia is still to hold credible elections
to legitimize the government it seized.

Only the
deaf, or those who deliberately blocked their ears, would not have heard her
say with passion and commitment that she will “strengthen human rights bodies”
and “promote an initiative for the universalization of inter-American human
rights instruments”. If they were listening, they would also have heard her say
that, as Secretary-General, she would be more “Secretary” than “General” (a
failing of Mr Almagro’s), and that she would carry out the mandate and
instructions given to her by Ministers.

And, it
would only be the malicious who would deliberately misrepresent Ms Espinosa’s
undertakings. Yet, the Brazilian Ambassador, in a later public session treating
with the candidate for the post of Assistant Secretary General, and with Ms
Espinosa unable to respond, completely misrepresented her remarks, saying that
she had stated she would not be guided by decisions of Ministers and the
Permanent Council of the OAS. It took, another woman, Lou-Ann Gilchrist, the
Ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with great diplomatic restraint,
to point out the Brazilian Ambassador’s misrepresentation.

If, those
who are so desperate to retain Mr Almagro as their attack dog, would
acknowledge that it is that posture that has led to the polarization and
ineffectiveness of the OAS, they might see in Ms Espinosa an experienced and
capable diplomat who, as she herself has publicly declared, “will not promote
personal ideologies or the interest of any group”. It is precisely because Mr
Almagro has been so ready to be partisan that the OAS is now a fractured and
weak organization, recognized not for its achievements but for its contentious
divisions.

It was
accepted by most delegates at the February 12 presentations that Mr Almagro was
the worst performer. He should have been the best. The debate was taking place
on his ground – inside the headquarters of the OAS – and on his agenda, the
role of the Secretary-General which post he has held for nearly 5 years. Yet,
he was clearly not in control of his brief; he answered questions badly; and in
some cases, did not know answers that should have come to him easily. Perhaps,
this is because he has been a one-item Secretary-General, focused on events in
Venezuela to the near exclusion of everything else.

No one could
have derived any pleasure from Mr Almagro’s poor performance.  As I have written repeatedly, he is a very
bright and able man. Somehow, he has lost his way, and was hoisted by his own
petard. Not least, because he could not give to questioners a valid reason for
seeking re-election when, in his first campaign to be elected and for most of
his term, he had categorically stated that he would not run again.

The other
contender for the OAS stewardship is Hugo de Zela of Peru. On the general view,
he achieved second place, after Ms Espinosa, in the effectiveness of his
presentation and the content of the answers he gave to questions. His Achilles
heel is his central and pivotal role in the creation and operation of the Lima
Group, a gathering of a few countries dedicated to regime change in Venezuela.

Mr de Zela’s
smooth veneer was dented by the Ambassador of Grenada, Yolande Smith, who
inquired how he planned to build consensus in the OAS when he was the planter
of the seeds of division by creating the Lima Group (not an official or recognized
group of the Organization) that ignored the official regional groups and operated
in an exclusive process.

The OAS is
at the crossroads. It can continue the business of the last five years, in
which case countries will withdraw and the Organization will become an
unrepresentative body with no hemispheric legitimacy, or it can choose sound
management, transparency and greater effectiveness through the inclusion of all
in genuine dialogue that takes account of every view. The latter would not be
seeking a lowest common denominator consensus; it would be based on guidance by
established rules, principles and international law.

Of the candidates who spoke on February 12, María Fernanda Espinosa offered the best course for every member state to achieve the latter objective – and that was the general belief.

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own.

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CARICOM Heads to Tackle Wide-Ranging Agenda at Barbados Meeting

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday February
17, 2020
– When Caribbean
Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government meet in Barbados this week, issues
ranging from current public health concerns to strengthening ties with Africa will
be on their agenda.

The two-day
31st Inter-Sessional Meeting, under the Chairmanship of Barbados’ Prime
Minister Mia Mottley, is expected to deliberate on a regional approach to the
Corona Virus (COVID-19) as well as the continuing challenges posed by
non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

During the February 18-29 talks, the Heads are also scheduled to examine the status of implementation of provisions of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). In this regard, they are expected to have an engagement with representatives of the region’s private sector, labour and civil society.

Among other
pressing economic development matters, the meeting will discuss digital
transformation in CARICOM and an action plan for elimination of regional
roaming charges. The need for ongoing advocacy against the challenges of
blacklisting, de-risking, and withdrawal of Correspondent Banking Services is
also expected to get the Head’s attention.

Also on the
agenda is a discussion on a proposed CARICOM African Summit, among a number of foreign
and Community relations matters.

The leaders are also due to address crime, violence and security issues affecting the region.

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