Minister of Health, Donville Inniss,??presenting a certificate of participation in the Emergency First Aid and Disaster Preparedness Project to Kelly-Ann Griffith.

The Ministry of Health is expected to continue its relationship with the St. John Ambulance Association of Barbados in respect of health care.

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, acknowledged this recently, as he addressed the launch of that organisation’s Emergency First Aid and Disaster Preparedness Project, at its headquarters on Bay Street.

He said: "We have always had a long and successful relationship with St. John Ambulance as one of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) we work with to sensitise Barbadians on health care. Specifically in their role of disaster management, they have a long and rich history in respect of providing care around the world."

Acknowledging that the organisation’s membership seemed skewed towards the upper end of the ageing population, Mr. Inniss noted the importance of involving the youth. "It is reflective of what is happening in the wider society where we are challenged to get young people involved. Young people must realise that there is much to be gained by volunteering and getting involved in community activities such as cleaning up their community."

He lauded the agency for initiating the project, which has thus far seen individuals trained as trainers and added, "Given our vulnerability, it augurs well when we have a large cadre of persons trained and the NGOs can play a meaningful role in preparing Barbadians for events like natural disasters. It is imperative that we have a cadre of Barbadians to respond and use First Aid skills…"

While accepting that Government’s subvention might not be deemed enough for the St. John Ambulance Association, the Health Minister gave the assurance that this was under "active consideration" by Government.?? However, he urged the agency "to seek active collaboration with others", something which could be pursued with the help of the Health Ministry. To this end, he reiterated that an NGO Desk would soon be started in his Ministry and revealed it could help "to concretise the relationship between the Ministry and St. John Ambulance".

Meanwhile, President of the St. John Ambulance, Major David Binks, disclosed that the disaster project was conceptualised by the people in the community to ensure they received the requisite life skills to handle a disaster.??

He explained: "This is a project that can do nothing but good for the people of Barbados. We are in a hurricane belt and we know what can happen to our people, given any disaster. Knowledge of First Aid and how to respond during emergencies is becoming increasingly vital for Caribbean communities that are affected by such events."

The project is geared at training individuals from across the region in First Aid and other emergency skills. The countries are Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica and St. Lucia- seven territories in which St. John Ambulance operate.??

It is being funded at a cost of 156,632 Euros and targets, among others, students, teachers; community groups; sports clubs; government officials; fishing communities and youth groups.?? Some 1800 persons in Barbados stand to benefit from the training over the next twelve months.

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