26 October 2020
Delivered at the World Health Summit session ‘Access to Sustainable NCD Treatment and Care’, hosted by The Defeat-NCD Partnership
The federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, like other states of the Caribbean, is grappling with the deadly duo of COVID and non-communicable diseases or NCDs.
Both of which are connected to climate change.
Which is our overarching challenge as small island developing states (SIDS).
COVID-19 is having a negative health impact on our Caribbean islands due to existing epidemics of NCDs such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Over 90 percent of the people dying from COVID-19 have a pre-existing underlying NCD. In St. Kitts and Nevis we have taken a multisectoral approach to confront NCDs, via the employment of strategies and programmes meant to lower NCD prevalence rates, via targeted healthcare financing, public health education, and advocacy for behaviour and lifestyle changes. We are also engaged in policy formulation and legislative drafting regarding the harmful use of alcohol and tobacco products. Additionally, we have strengthened healthcare programming in so far as screening and early detection of NCDs are concerned. Acting promptly, based on evidence, our primary healthcare approach will help us to flatten the COVID-19 curve. In St. Kitts and Nevis we have contained the COVID-19 cases to 19. All cases have recovered nicely. Our country has recorded zero deaths and no major need for hospitalisation.
I admonish all of us that before we have a safe and effective vaccine, there is a window of opportunity and a duty to mitigate the risk of a catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic by enhanced prevention and control of NCDs by building our public healthcare approach and by leveraging digital health technology. The Defeat-NCD Partnership is a practical approach to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 which demands that by 2030 there be a reduction by one-third in terms of premature deaths due to NCDs through prevention and treatment, and promotion of mental health and well-being.
We urge the World Health Organization, the Pan-American Health Organisation, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, and national governments to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a strong signal to integrate COVID-19 into our collective way of life, through the strengthening of our health systems to reduce NCDs. When that happens, we can then aspire to a healthier global population and reduce risks from future pandemics. By supporting The Defeat-NCD Partnership we can build back better from the COVID-19 crisis. We commend the ACD Secretariat and the European Commission for their long investment in the development of the Caribbean region. These agencies were among the first to recognise and support The Defeat-NCD Partnership at its launch on 24 September 2018 during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. I further call upon them and other like-minded partners to invest in The Defeat-NCD Partnership so that a multisectoral approach can be put in place to tackle NCDs and the COVID-19 crisis simultaneously.
Finally, I must thank Defeat-NCD for moving quickly and entering into an MOU with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). This strategic move will bring global good practices and access to sustainable financing to Caribbean states in so far as our achievement of SDG3.4 is concerned.