Chief Medical Officer says Federation needs to sustain progress already made in achieving Millennium Development Goals

St. Kitts and Nevis Delegation to the MGD Plenary – (Front row Left to right) – St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas; Minister of Health, Social Services, Gender, Culture and Social Development, Hon. Marcella Liburd and Ambassador to the United Nations, His Excellency Delano Bart. Back Row (left to right) – Chase Ergen; First Secretary, Ms. Ghislane Williams and Counsellor, Mr. Carlise Richardson.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER 26TH 2010 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Martin says the Federation’s priority mission is to sustain the progress already made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

“For countries like St. Kitts and Nevis, the MDG issue is not the progress to 2015 targets, the priority mission is to sustain the progress already made in reducing poverty and hunger; maintaining universal access to education and healthcare; and protecting the ecosystem. Development goals are met and surpassed by investment in the services people need to pursue happiness,” said the Chief Medical Officer.

He said that economic challenges, notwithstanding, federal and local government expenditure for such services continues with approximately EC$ 150 million dollars projected in 2010 for education, health and social welfare.

“This level of investment is testimony to the firm national resolve to advance and protect human development,” said Dr. Martin, who stated that St. Kitts and Nevis’ progress report on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals has shown remarkable achievements.

In a paper on Public Health Perspective following the presentation of the Report by Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas at the United Nations Plenary Session, Dr. Martin noted that the MDGs aim to encourage development by improving social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries and determine the agenda for developmental assistance.

He outlined the eight categories of the MDG as 1. End Poverty and Hunger; 2. Universal Education; 3. Gender Equality; 4. Improve Child Health; 5. Improve Maternal Health; 6. Combat HIV/AIDS; 7. Environmental Sustainability and 8. Global Partnership and noted that MDGs 1 to 6 are directly or indirectly linked to portfolio subjects held by the Hon Marcella Liburd, Minister of Health, Social Services, Gender, Culture and Community Development.

“The Federation’s progress report showed remarkable overall achievement. With regards to the health services-related goals (MDG 4, 5, 6), child mortality is low, maternal mortality is negligible, and there is barrier-free access to HIV/AIDS treatment, care and support. The progress is largely the outcome of strengthened governance, health systems and human resource development; and prudent investment,” said Dr. Martin.

He disclosed that projected government (federal and local) expenditure on health services for 2010 is EC$50 million dollars representing 3.3% GDP or EC$ 1, 000 per capita (population estimate is 52, 000).

Pointing out that there is a history to record of achievement in social services, Dr. Martin noted that in the colonial era, the major threats to survival and development were the deplorable social and economic conditions in which the majority of people were born, lived and worked.

During the first half of the 20th century, up to 400 children died before their first birthday, there were 300 active cases of Tuberculosis, and diseases such as whooping cough and gastroenteritis were also rampant. Life expectancy then was below 50 years. Naturally, there was protest which peaked in 1935 with the Buckley’s Estate riots. From St. Kitts, unrest spread throughout the Caribbean forcing the then colonial authority to establish the Moyne Commission in 1939 to address the reasons for the widespread disaffection.

He noted that the corrective measures recommended by the Commission resonate today. The granting of Universal Adult Suffrage in 1952 led to representative government and increased investment in primary health care and a network of community health centers and hospitals staffed by trained personnel. Other areas receiving attention were the provision of universal access to education at all levels, improvement in housing and sanitation, and the piped delivery of potable water. The resulting rise in the standard of living led to a steady reduction in the burden of disease due to infections, poor sanitation and nutritional deficiency.

“Today, the death rate due to infections is less than 5% of total mortality. Each newly born infant has a life expectancy of 73 years. High life expectancy and low mortality are indicators of goal achievement in human development,” said Dr. Martin.

He noted that as a developing nation, St. Kitts and Nevis finances human development projects and programmes through a mix of revenue and external funding. However, the country’s middle income label impedes no cost/low cost funds such as grants and concessionary rate loans.

Dr. Martin noted the Prime Minister reiterated the call for vulnerability to natural disasters to be factored in the development assistance calculus.

“Vulnerability should also account for the relative openness of the economy hence overexposure to the crippling effects of exogenous shocks as was demonstrated by the food, fuel and financial crises,” said Dr. Martin.

He added that the current reliance on GDP per capita is meaningless for states whose economy could be destroyed in a few seconds by an earthquake or a few hours by a major hurricane.

“Having to incur a high level of indebtedness because of high cost loans for human and infrastructure development, and post-disaster reconstruction is iniquitous,” said Dr. Martin.

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