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PRESS RELEASE – The Zika virus which has affected several families and communities continues to receive attention not only from St.Lucia’s Ministry of Health and Wellness but also from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Recently, the two agencies held a Zika Sensitization Workshop at the National Mental Wellness Centre in order to train participants in risk communication and reduce the impact of the Zika virus on the population.
The participants of the workshop included representatives of Town and Village Councils,Social Workers and staff of the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Dr. Sharon Belmar-George is the Medical Officer of Health.
“We are hoping that during this two day consultation we would implement effective strategies to increase the collaboration between a lot of the community groups in the fight against vector borne diseases. We have two representatives from the Pan American Health Organization working together with us in terms of ensuring that we can improve our output at the community level.”
PAHO as Dr. George said has been very supportive in the fight against Zika and the other vector borne diseases which have affected St. Lucia. Mrs Valerie Beech-Horne ,the PAHO representative in St.Lucia says it is important to adopt a multi sectoral approach in combating the virus. PAHO is very concerned about the impact of the disease on its member states especially in the Eastern Caribbean.
“For us, Zika is a problem although it is a mild disease, it has major public health implications. So , we have been funding as much as possible, capacity building for prevention, management of Zika complications and also we have been funding activities such as this one to promote the community awareness and involvement in the prevention and spread of Zika.”
Mayor of Soufriere, Pius Gangardine is optimistic about translating the information he has received into action.
“I learned today the impact it has on the tourism industry especially as Soufriere is relatively dependent on the tourism industry. Zika is an epidemic and it has to be controlled from the breeding process. And I’m hoping that we can put in the measures together with and alongside other agencies to ensure that we control that epidemic”
Another agent of change in the community, Social Transformation Officer, Brenda Wilson, believes that the people of the community must be involved from the very beginning if Zika is to be completely eradicated.
“I believe for too long we have practiced the top/down. We’re meeting as ministries and agencies. However, I think the consulting needs to be guided from the beginning by community people because they understand their reality so much more than we do, and they also have the solutions for what it is that they face.”
The second day of the two day workshop targeted faith based organizations.