Acting Minister of Health, Donville Inniss and PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, come together to plant a tree at PAHO headquarters. The tree planting symbolised the “fruitful friendship” between PAHO and Barbados over the past 50 years. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

The Acting Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, has lauded the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) for its sterling contribution to transforming the healthcare system in Barbados.

He heaped accolades on the institution during a tree planting ceremony at its Dayrells Road, Christ Church institution, to commemorate 50 years of Barbados’ membership in PAHO/World Health Organization.

Noting that the friendship between Barbados and PAHO had matured over the past five decades, Mr. Inniss said there is “no other international body that has made as much of a positive contribution to the development and sustainability of health care in Barbados like PAHO”.

“The trees that we planted here this morning provide us with an opportunity to recognise that it can grow into a sturdy and fruit-bearing tree, if it is nurtured well.   I think that the 50 years that we have together thus far, is because that tree that was planted perhaps 50 years ago has been well nurtured and we have seen the fruits of it.  Fifty years from now, we will see what this symbolises, in terms of the friendship that we have had over the years,” he underlined.

On the point of transforming the island’s health care system, the Acting Minister of Health said a lot of challenges experienced in the 1960s and 1970s had either been eliminated, or managed better.

Mr. Inniss proffered the view that public health was a dynamic field and thanks to PAHO, Barbados had been able to equip medical staff with the requisite training and the provision of support services to be prepared for what may lie ahead.

“It has also taught us that there is no room for complacency, and the task falls on us to ensure that we continue to nurture the relationship with PAHO. On behalf of the Government, I pledge the commitment to continuing the partnership [and] strengthen it where possible.  We are eternally grateful for the contribution that you have made and we are proud of seeing Barbadians around the world making a contribution,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne, noted that although the leadership and the administration of the institution had changed over the last 50 years, what had remained constant was the “unwavering commitment to work collaboratively with the respective governments and people of Barbados in order to improve their health and well-being”.

“Together we have achieved many significant public health milestones, including significant improvements in immunisation coverage resulting in the eradication…of many infectious diseases.  We have achieved the revision of public health policies and plans in an effort to improve public health services in Barbados and the wider Caribbean,” she remarked.

The United Nation’s Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme, Stephen O’Malley, said the commitment that PAHO/WHO brings to Barbados and the region was evident, particularly in the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs), response to natural disasters and inter-agency work of the UN on NCDs and day-to-day interactions.

The representative for PAHO/WHO for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr. Godfrey Xuereb said the planting of the five fruit trees, was not only a celebration of the five decades of collaboration but were an excellent component of a healthy diet.

He added: “Fruits also contain the seeds for the continued generation of the plant species, and we hope the work that PAHO does is the seed that will continue to grow the health system in Barbados.”

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