Addressing the myriad of health challenges due to the hurricanes that severely impacted five of the OECS Member States was a key agenda item. Consequently, decisions were taken to strengthen the response of the emergency health framework with the creation of a joint emergency fund and the facilitation of hospital to hospital emergency transfers.
The Council of Ministers acknowledged that Climate Change is a health crisis, and made the link between rising temperatures, rising sea level, extreme weather events and health effects. Climate change effects on health include increased deaths, increased injuries, mosquito and other vector-borne diseases, respiratory conditions, poor mental health, impact on food and water security (leading to poor nutrition and gastrointestinal disease) and destruction of health facilities. It was also recognized that the interdependence of the Member States for food supply and backup systems confound recovery efforts.
Participants discussed regional integration from the angle of Health, the lessons learned regarding medical care challenges in the light of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and access to Sustainable Quality Health Services before concluding the meeting with the Fort-de-France Declaration.
Ministers committed to regional solidarity through the ten commitments of the Fort-de-France Declaration:
- Share Health Human Resources,
- Facilitate pooled procurement of health equipment and services,
- Collect and share the relevant information to drive the strategic direction of health including quality and outcome indicators,
- Develop and implement common policy and legislative approaches in health,
- Develop and disseminate common messages on healthy living,
- Create healthy environments through appropriate planning, development and community engagement,
- Prioritise prevention and primary care particularly for non-communicable diseases,
- Share access to specialized services,
- Jointly prepare for and respond to health emergencies,
- Share Best Practices and conduct common research.
The Fort-de-France declaration is geared towards one ambitious goal: ensuring “Health for All”.