PAHO hit by US funding freeze

PAHO hit by US funding freeze
PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne (FILE PHOTO)

Health org. marks “somber milestone” as COVID-19 cases top 1 mil. in the Americas

NASSAU, BAHAMAS —The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) has also been hit by the Trump administration’s decision to withhold funding from the World Health Organization – a move that impacts some 60 percent of its funding.

PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne yesterday said the organization is hopeful that mutual collaboration can continue due to the significant level of funding that comes from the United States.

She spoke during a media briefing via Zoom yesterday.

Etienne noted that PAHO looks forward to the continued collaboration with the US government and all other partners.

American president Donald Trump announced his decision to withhold funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) on April 14. According to international reports, the US contributes approximately $500 million to the WHO annually.

Etienne said: “We have learned that the freeze has been extended to include PAHO. Over the years we have enjoyed very firm collaboration and technical support to from the US. They have supported us in health policy development, definition and completion of health programs.

“Sixty percent of the funding of PAHO comes from the US government. That speaks volumes. Funding from  the US has been really central to the work of PAHO.”

Etienne noted that mutual collaboration with the US has stood test of many years and “it us our hope we can continue to work in this vein to ensure the health and well being of the majority of people in the Americas”.

She said the organization has marked a “somber milestone” in the fight against COVID-19 with cases in the Americas exceeding one million this week.

“More than one million cases of the virus have been reported in the Americas as of April 27. More than 60,000 people have died from this terrible disease.

“There has been a concerning rise of new infectious cases across Latin America. Just in the past week we have seen over 250,000 new cases in the Americas; the majority reported in the US, followed by Brazil, Canada , Ecuador and Mexico.”

Dr Etienne noted that until a vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered immunization can and must be delivered by the health services alongside the response to COVID-19.

“We must vaccinate to protect health workers, the elderly and vulnerable populations from respiratory infections which can lead to more hospitalizations and may be harder to diagnose in the context of COVID-19,” she said.

“If we fall behind on routine immunizations particularly for children we risk outbreaks thus overcoming hospitals and clinics with preventable diseases in addition to COVID-19. The impact on our health-care systems would take months and even years to reverse.”

Etienne said: “COVID-19 is putting our health systems to the test and our challenge going forward is that our health systems can deliver on our priority health programs while responding to COVID-19. I think this pandemic has even caused everyone to work together.”

PAHO has maintained Country Office status in the country since 1982, and a sub-regional office since 1978.

The organizations provides technical support and capacity building resources, affording the Ministry of Health with direct access to PAHO’s resources and response capability.

The Office is currently located in Union Court at the intersection of Shirley Street and Elizabeth Avenue in New Providence.