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Monday, November 2, 2009

Caribbean Red Cross societies step up H1N1 response

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- In response to the H1N1 pandemic, Red Cross societies around the Caribbean are supporting their statutory health care systems in preparing communities to respond to H1N1. Thanks to funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Red Cross staff and volunteers have been working directly with community members to share information on how to reduce the transmission of the virus.

The Red Cross has for many years trained Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) to respond to emergencies whether they be natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and floods or health emergencies as is the case with H1N1. Currently, these CDRTs are helping persons, particularly in remote and vulnerable areas to understand the H1N1 virus better; its incubation period and the personal hygiene practices required to reduce the spread of the disease.

To cite a few concrete examples of the work being done by the Red Cross across the Caribbean, the Aruba Red Cross gave assistance to the Department of Healthcare of Aruba in the screening process of passengers and crew members of a cruise ship. In response to requests from their Ministry of Health, the Grenada Red Cross was able to mobilize specially trained volunteers known as National Intervention Teams (NITs) to assist Port Health workers at the airport and cruise ship port within half an hour of being asked to do so. Saint Lucia Red Cross was able to activate its volunteers to distribute 30,000 flyers at the Jazz Festival earlier this year.

In addition to community work, the Guyana, Jamaica and Belize Red Cross have been working with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to raise awareness on hygiene and prevention of H1N1 within institutions such as elderly homes, orphanages and prisons. These activities are only undertaken with the support of the health authorities to reinforce national preparedness and prevention.

The Dominca Red Cross is gearing up for an influx of international visitors to two major music events: World Creole Music festival and ‘Creole in the Park’. They are working along with the event organisers to spread the word to visitors and locals alike on how to protect themselves and their families from contracting the H1N1 virus and what to do if they have symptoms. Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross volunteers are assisting the South West Regional Health Authority to triage patients with H1N1 symptoms.

These are just a few of the ways that Red Cross volunteers have been invaluable in assisting their communities in an emergency. The Red Cross continues to have the support of donors for its community and volunteer development programmes, which have ensured this timely response.

November 2, 2009