COVID-19’s Deadly NCD Connection

An estimated seven out of every 10 deaths in Barbados are linked to a non-communicable disease (NCD). 

The connection between NCDs and complications associated with COVID-19 is also well established as this opportunistic virus thrives on NCDs, weakening an already compromised system. Although the high incidence of non-communicable diseases in Barbados did not start with COVID-19, the pandemic has revealed holes in the system to address them. The situation also puts to the test traditions and behaviours surrounding NCD triggers

For the island, this presents a multi-pronged challenge to its public health assets. Barbados has long been keeping a close eye on what has been recognised as a high incidence of NCDs including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels), cancers and pulmonary diseases.  

To that has recently been added a fifth category: mental health disease. Once included, the numbers rise and, along with them, the cost of healthcare.

Barbados’ Rendezvous with Climate Change

If most fisherfolk, tourism operators, scientists, politicians, and regular citizens collectively agree on anything here it is that the unfolding impacts of climate change have the potential to dramatically change the face of the 432 square kilometre island republic forever. 

This is particularly the case when it comes to Barbados’ famed marine resources that constitute the islands key tourism assets, provide recreation, and contribute to domestic food supplies. Robert Hinds, Operations Manager at Atlantis Submarines is convinced the threats are not to be taken lightly. “It is not a joke, if we look, we may not be able to see the effects right now. Yes, climate change has a big impact. It’s just a matter of time before we see those effects of sea level rise, and the effects on the coastline,” Hinds said.

Searching for the Sun on the Nature Island

Almost a decade after Dominica’s best and brightest recommended a diversified renewable energy plan, the island’s 75,000 residents are paying a high price for continued reliance on diesel-fueled generators to supply the electric grid. The current government has poured funds into a geothermal plant that would be capable of exporting electricity at a profit.  But the project has stalled over costs and concerns about safety and it’s impact on the environment. As a result, Dominica ranks as one of the countries whose people pay some of the highest energy rates in the World. Prominent environmentalist Atherton Martin reflected on the public record for making the switch to non-fossil fuels saying “We are where we are: not in a good place.”

Sources: World Factbook, U.S. Nat’l Renewable Energy Lab

Martin, Dominica’s former Minister of Agriculture, placed the blame squarely on the government for ignoring the detailed Low Carbon Climate Resilient Development Strategy of 2012.  That report was an in-depth study into the viability of renewable energy plants.  It even identified where they could be located.

Special Reports

The Media Institute of the Caribbean recently hosted a series of online training sessions for journalists in Dominica and Barbados. The project was supported by Internews and addressed the gaps identified in their recent Information Ecosystem Assessment. Fellowships were offered to journalists to undertake special reports from both islands. These stories were developed as part of that training programme and CIJN is pleased to present these stories to our audiences as part of our initiative to highlight the work of Caribbean journalists. 

Striking A Balance: The Issue of Mandatory Vaccination

The Covid-19 pandemic has thus far defied resolution despite the availability of vaccines since December 2020 on an emergency authorized use basis
This leaves tens of millions of unvaccinated persons in high-income, vaccine-available countries as well as hundreds of millions more in low-income, vaccine-scarce countries as fertile pools for the spread of the coronavirus and the appearance of new variants.

The issue of mandatory vaccination in the region requires striking a delicate balance to avoid socio political fallout. Dr. Terrence Farrell addresses the issue.

Pandemic Impacts on Food and Agriculture within CARICOM

Globally, COVID-19 has rapidly led to close to a quarter of a billion cases and over five million deaths. It was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the death rate was reported to be among the highest in the world. The region is experiencing disappointing results with its vaccination roll out, with Antigua and Barbuda having the highest and Haiti the lowest percentages of fully vaccinated people. The foregoing are the major metrics, along with those of an economic nature, such as, labour shortages, manufacturing shortfalls, shipping delays, and increasing energy costs, by which the impacts of COVID-19 are measured. 

However, more recently, mental, and emotional health has been recognised with sharp increases in depression and anxiety, particularly in women.

Regional Perspectives on COVID Relief in the Caribbean

Expert Analyses

An unprecedented collaboration led by the Media Institute of the Caribbean has brought together leading Caribbean journalists, researchers, and development experts in a project to monitor government expenditure of external financing of pandemic efforts in 14 countries of the region.  The project will produce regular reporting on governmental best practice in the areas of procurement processes, and efficiencies, transparency, and accountability in the state sector. This special section gives regional perspectives on some of the key findings.

The Poverty Mega Shock

There is no country in the world that has been immune from the impact of COVID-19. By the time that COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), many countries in the Caribbean were already recording its incidence. 

No section of society has been immune either. As governments have been forced to introduce lockdowns, many households find themselves without any source of income. This sudden pauperisation has sparked discussion in social media and in the regular press across the region. Governments are being scrutinised over their responses to the poverty induced by the pandemic.

Accounting for Pandemic Relief Funding

In 2019, the world experienced its lowest crude death rate ever – at 7.525 deaths per 1,000 persons, according to the World Bank. This figure is estimated to have increased for the first time this century to at least 7.6 in 2020. 

While 1,813,188 COVID-19 deaths were reported in 2020, recent WHO estimates suggest an excess mortality of at least 3 million persons. Globally, as of 11:37am CEST, 19 July 2021, there have been 189,921,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 4,088,281 deaths (reported to the World Health Organization). As if the pandemic itself was not enough to be worried about from a survival standpoint, we have seen vibrant manifestations of various perennial ills, such as underreported death and infection rates globally, vaccine inequality, undisclosed vaccine sources and uses, unclear and ever-changing reported vaccine efficacy rates and risks, and vaccine passport discrimination, for example. 

These and other pandemic-related mishaps only add to the simmering sense of confusion and chaos, causing many a (buried) seed of suspicion to spring green shoots of mistrust, and spread its roots. The irony is that in a world that has grown to almost expect fake news, truth, transparency, and their offspring – trust – are probably at once, more priceless but more elusive than ever before. 

And then there is the perennial issue of money.

The Private Sector’s Response to COVID-19 in the Caribbean

As outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009, drawing on lessons learned from the previous SARS and MERs outbreaks, a pandemic can be severely disruptive to individual societies as well as the global economy and requires a ‘whole-of-society’ response.  

A ‘whole-of-society’ approach does not mean mere consultation. It goes well beyond that to providing guidance, communication, and coordination of plans so that key services can continue to be delivered. The stakeholders include business, trade unions, universities, religious and charitable organisations (NGOs). A ‘whole-of-society’ approach also does in no way derogate from a government’s leadership of the management of a crisis. The alternative approach may be described as ‘command and control’ where the Government attempts to exercise complete control over all stages of crisis management – readiness, response and recovery – without effectively or meaningfully engaging the private business sector and NGOs in these processes.