Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 14 December, 2023. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) held a landmark Public Signing Ceremony for the Pandemic Fund (PF) Technical Cooperation (TC) Agreement (“Reducing the Public Health Impact of Pandemics in the Caribbean through Prevention, Preparedness, and Response” [RG-T4387] Project) on December 14, 2023, at the Scarlet Ibis Room, Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre. The Agreement was signed by Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director, CARPHA and Ms. Carina Cockburn, IDB Country Representative for Trinidad and Tobago.
The Pandemic Fund (PF) is the first multilateral financing mechanism dedicated to providing multiyear grants to help low- and middle-income countries become better prepared for future pandemics. The PF’s first Call for Proposals provides additional financing to strengthen prevention, preparedness and response (PPR) capabilities, and address critical gaps in countries through investments and technical support at the national, regional and global levels. It is also expected to support and reinforce capacity building and implementation of PPR under the IHR (2005) and other frameworks, consistent with the One Health approach. [Pandemic Fund Allocates First Grants to Help Countries Be Better Prepared for Future Pandemics (worldbank.org)]
CARPHA’s regional entity proposal was successfully selected in July 2023 for the first round of PF financing, with CARPHA as the Executing Agency and IDB as the Implementing Entity. It was one of only 19 proposals selected from over 300 submissions and the only regional project. This regional project, with CARPHA as beneficiary and CARPHA Member States as the participants, serves to support CARPHA in reducing the public health impact of pandemics in the Caribbean region, whilst building pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR) through strengthening i) disease surveillance and early warning systems (EWS), ii) laboratory systems and iii) workforce capacity, regionally at CARPHA and at country levels. Dr. Lisa Indar, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Division is the Project lead at CARPHA and Mr. Ramiro Guerrero Carvahal, Principal Sector Specialist of IDB Headquarters and Mr. Ian Ho-a-Shu, Senior Health Specialist of IDB Country Office, Trinidad and Tobago, are the leads from the IDB.
In recent years, the Caribbean region has experienced many infectious disease outbreaks, including COVID-19, Cholera, Chikungunya, Dengue, Norovirus, H1N1, Mpox, SARS and Zika, which have had profound human, economic and social impacts. Pandemic PPR needs to be improved not only at the national levels, but at the regional level, as functional regional capacities can achieve the economies of scale and necessary coordination/integration that small territories cannot achieve on their own.
The Agreement signing in December is, as a result of rigorous preparation activities by CARPHA and IDB, culminating with the IDB Board of Directors’ approval in just three months on November 15th, 2023. Remarks for this milestone event were delivered by Mr. Cassanni Laville, Chairman of the CARPHA Executive Board, and Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), the Honourable Minister of Health, Wellness and Social Services, Dominica, Mr. Terrence Deyalsingh, Honourable Minister of Health, Trinidad and Tobago, Ms. Carina Cockburn, IDB Country Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. Lisa Indar, Pandemic Fund Project Director, CARPHA, Dr. Mark Sami, Director, Corporate Services and Dr. Priya Basu, Executive Head of the Pandemic Fund, with Ministers of Health, Chief Medical Officers, the Pandemic Fund Secretariat, CARPHA partners and CARPHA Divisional Management Team in attendance.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. Mark Sami, Director, Corporate Services, CARPHA, stated “The signing of this Pandemic Fund Technical Cooperation Agreement between CARPHA and the IDB represents a great milestone for this Region, as we prepare to successfully respond to public health emergencies”.
Mr. Cassanni Laville, Chairman of CARPHA’s Executive Board and the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), and Honourable Minister of Health, Wellness and Social Services, Dominica, said “This signing signifies the start of a new phase for CARPHA, IDB and Member States as it commemorates regional collaboration and partnership as the firm foundation for the successful implementation of the Pandemic Fund grant which will support a significant body of work over a three-year period, toward the goal of reducing the public health impact of pandemics in the Caribbean region”.
Mr. Terrence Deyalsingh, Honourable Minister of Health, Trinidad and Tobago, stated “We must ensure that decisive plans are laid for future generations, which will assist in the strengthening of capacity to prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies. Today’s historic public signing ceremony for the Pandemic Fund Technical Cooperation Agreement, is a major and fundamental step toward the attainment of these goals, as the formalisation of this agreement will allow countries in the Americas to adopt the necessary technological systems needed for emergency and early response warning systems.”
Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director, CARPHA, shared “This signing is solidifying the formal agreement between the IDB and CARPHA, but it is only the start to what this landmark investment can do to foster sustained and effective pandemic preparedness and response in the region. CARPHA will maintain its proud legacy of implementation through engagement with its key stakeholders in such a way that we build trust within our Member States (MS). To do this, CARPHA is building a robust monitoring and evaluation framework, enforcing accountability and practicing ethically sound principles in the transparent execution of this project along with our MS and the IDB”.
Dr. Lisa Indar, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control and Project Lead remarked “This Project is especially needed in the region, as the Caribbean is uniquely characterised by small, under-resourced populations and varying surveillance, laboratory and human resource capacities. It is also highly interconnected with porous borders, heavily reliant on tourism, and susceptible to climatic change and disasters. This combination of factors significantly increases the region’s exposure and vulnerability to pandemic risks, enabling rapid spread of highly transmissible communicable diseases. A regional approach is key, as when a public health emergency affects one of us, it affects all of us, as diseases know no boundaries”.
Ms. Carina Cockburn, IDB Country Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, noted “The IDB Country Strategy for Trinidad & Tobago (2021-2025) focuses on digital transformation, and it is fitting to see that CARPHA has prioritised the use of digital tools and technology in advancing digital health in the region.” She added, “In a few years we can expect to see some really amazing results from this operation: Laboratory networks will expand; national biosafety, biosecurity, and lab quality management will improve; and workforce capacity will be strengthened. We also look forward to seeing enhanced national and regional coordination, collaboration and information flow for detecting and managing outbreaks and regional public health emergencies across sectors and borders”.
Dr. Priya Basu, Executive Head of the Pandemic Fund at the World Bank, shared that “The Pandemic Fund is pleased to partner with CARPHA and the Inter-American Development Bank to support this important project, which holds the promise of building the Region’s resilience to future pandemics. Today’s signing marks a crucial step in our shared commitment towards global health security. “
This project is expected to begin implementation in January 2024 kicking off with a CARPHA-IDB mission and the fulfilment of the key positions in the Project Execution Unit.
CARPHA remains committed to working together with the IDB, CARPHA Member States and the Pandemic Fund to successfully implement the regional proposal geared toward reducing the public health impact of pandemics in the Caribbean.
Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director, CARPHA (Seated Left) and Ms. Carina Cockburn (Seated Right), IDB Country Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, sign the Pandemic Fund Technical Cooperation Agreement while Dr. Lisa Indar and Dr. Mark Sami – CARPHA Directors look on.
Minister of Health, Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Terrence Deyalsingh attends (in person) the public signing ceremony of the Pandemic Fund Technical Cooperation Agreement between CARPHA and the IDB at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre
From Left to Right: Dr. Mark Sami-Corporate Services Director, CARPHA; Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director, CARPHA; Ms. Carina Cockburn-IDB Country Representative for Trinidad and Tobago; The Honourable Minister of Health, Trinidad and Tobago-Mr. Terrence Deyalsingh and Dr. Lisa Indar-Pandemic Fund Project Director and Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, CARPHA