Category Archives: August 2011

Jamaican Teens Appeal to Families to Help them Cope

One Jamaican teenager shares his battle with addiction to marijuana. He admits that he developed his addiction by smoking discarded stubs of the joints his father left lying around the house. He also admits that smoking marijuana is bad for his health but reveals that he is powerless to stop.

“Yes, I do know it’s not good for my health but it give me a ‘meds’ and mi like it. Without having the meds (Marijuana smoking gives me) mi can’t do nuttin! It help mi fi do everything that mi have fi do!”

Panos Caribbean Giving the Region’s Youth a Voice

Indi McLymont-Lafayette and Cossy Roosevelt at a recent Youth Journalism workshop in Haiti funded by The MacArthur Foundation (July 2011)

Andrea Downer, August 2011 – UNITED NATIONS has designated August 12th International Youth Day. The UN believes that on August 12th and EVERY day, youth should be able to participate in decision-making in their families, communities, and nations. Panos Caribbean has been assisting young people in the Caribbean to express themselves for 25 years in their own voices through the organization’s Youth Journalism programme which trains young people in basic journalism skills and assist them to articulate and advocate about issues that affect them through the media.

Our Youth Journalism programme aims to empower youth to advocate effectively on issues that affect them by utilizing the media. Panos’ Youth Journalism Programme “Our Own Voices — Youth Communicating Through the Media” targets young people aged 12 to 16 who are marginalized or vulnerable but possess strong leadership and communication skills. We then trained them to become effective communicators and youth advocates utilizing five interlinked approaches,” Executive Director of Panos Caribbean, Jan Voordouw explained.

According to Mr. Voordouw, Panos has established 16 youth journalism programmes in the Caribbean including in Jamaica, Haiti and St. Lucia over the past 25 years.

The group in St. Lucia recently produced two short videos with Public Service Announcements based on article 13 of the United Nations Conventions Rights of the Child which speaks to the rights of children to free speech and the ability to express themselves via various media as long as those rights do not infringe on the rights of others.

The PSAs were developed by the young people as part of their training programme which is being funded by the Commonwealth Foundation and Panos Global AIDS Programme (GAP).

Jean Claude Louis, a consultant with Panos Caribbean who manages the project in St. Lucia admits that child rights is an issue there. This is supported by the findings of a 2005 study by UNICEF on Child Vulnerability in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

Jean Claude Louis, a consultant with Panos Caribbean who manages the project in St. Lucia admits that child rights is an issue there. This is supported by the findings of a 2005 study by UNICEF on Child Vulnerability in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

The study was conducted during 2005 by the Governments of Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with technical and financial assistance from UNICEF.

As part of the study, a random household survey of households in St. Lucia found that more than half of the children there were ‘at risk’. According to the study, the main risk factors were food insecurity (or poverty) followed by chronic illness of a parent.

Poverty is the major obstacle to accessing nominally free social services, including education and health care,” the study stated.

The study also found that the abuse of children – particularly sexual abuse, was a serious concern to many.

The issue is hugely complicated by a lack of data, by inhibitions and denial, and by a lack of capacity to protect victims and those at risk,” the study continued.

Physical abuse, including corporal punishment, was also a significant concern – particularly as it still forms part of the ‘tradition’ of schools, the judicial system and the home in St. Lucia. In addition, children with disabilities and children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS were found to be especially vulnerable despite the fact that very little was known about them and not enough was being done for them.

There were also concerns that more children were being drawn into crime and the trade in and use of drugs, particularly in St. Lucia and St. Vincent, due to a combination of poor quality education and lack of career prospects.

While that study was done five years ago, the issue is still sufficiently of concern in St. Lucia and other parts of the Caribbean. In May this year (2011) the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States held the first of a series of regional workshops with media in St. Lucia.

The series of workshops are aimed at raising the priority they give to children without compromising child protection rights and privileges.

Communications and Programming Coordinator at the Eastern Caribbean UNICEF Office, Lisa Mc Clean-Trotman welcomed the training noting that the current global economic downturn could make children more vulnerable to domestic violence and child labour.

During times of economic recession children’s stories which are soft news stories, tend to go on the back burner , but it’s also important to recognize that these are also times when children become more vulnerable to exploitation as parents and providers become stressed, Also parents might perhaps use children to help better economic conditions so more than ever this is the time when you need to be more vigilant about child protection issues and also to report them and raise awareness about them as well as to give children, their parents and guardians a voice,” she stated.

During the series of seminars throughout the OECS, the media houses will be looking at issues such as interviewing children, investigating, reporting and writing stories about abused children, legal guidelines on reporting on children in need of special protection as well as the convention on the rights of the child.

Recognizing that children and young people are best at articulating their concerns, Panos Caribbean is giving them the opportunity to do so. In these two videos the compelling voices of young people from St. Lucia defiantly states their rights according to the UN Convention. Please take a moment to listen.

Early HIV Planning Work Saving the Lives of Jamaican Children

By: Andrea Downer, Journalist

Dr. Tracy Evans-Gilbert

Kingston, Jamaica. July 29, 2011- The recent 31% decline in the number of pediatric deaths in Jamaican children announced by Minister of Health, Rudyard Spencer is not a surprise to Dr. Tracy Evans-Gilbert, a pediatrician with considerable experience in the care of HIV positive children and their mothers in Jamaica.

Dr. Evans-Gilbert, who is based at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, Jamaica, says the current overall decline is the result of sustained efforts by persons involved in the HIV fight in Jamaica from as early as the 1990s. She also credits the increased availability and reduced cost of anti-retrovirals for treatment of HIV in children for the positive development.

“It’s a decline we have been seeing since the early days at Bustamante Hospital children when antiretrovirals first became available to those who could afford it,” she stated.

“As the drug became universally accessible across the island we saw at first a decline in hospital stay then fewer admissions. The children’s nutrition improved, they didn’t miss school and less and less children died. Even those who had advanced HIV that affected their brain and slowed their development started walking!” she told Panos Caribbean.

Mr. Spencer made the announcement recently at the launch of Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica.

According to Dr. Evans-Gilbert, when she began her medical career at the Kingston Bustamante Hospital in Kingston in the 1990s, HIV treatment and care of children was done in a very ad hoc way. Although anti-retrovirals for the treatment of HIV had become available by then, very few persons in Jamaica could afford the drug which was very expensive.

“In those days there was no HIV medication available in Jamaica to give to babies born HIV positive. The most we could do for the babies was treat the infections brought on by the HIV virus, manage their nutrition and try to make them as comfortable as we could,” she explained.

“But there was really nothing we could do and we would tell this to the parents – although not immediately. At that time, those HIV positive babies would not live beyond one year. We referred to them as ‘rapid progressers’ who would develop AIDS very quickly and die shortly after being diagnosed with HIV.”

“Back then, HIV testing was not a part of ante-natal care and so we would only find out that the mothers were HIV positive when they would take their sick babies in for treatment and the babies were diagnosed with HIV,” she stated.

“All of the early challenges in pediatric HIV care and subsequent progress that have been made have been captured in publications over the years by a team of pediatricians across the island, which I am a part of,” Dr. Evans-Gilbert disclosed.

“In the early days of HIV pediatric care in Jamaica, myself and the other doctors who are part of the now island wide team, shared the same frustration with the challenges we faced and had the same passion to see the children survive,” she explained

“We formed the Jamaica Paediatric Perinatal and Adolescents HIV/AIDS Group headed by Professor Celia Christie. The group now leads about eleven paediatric HIV clinics across the island, which were initially launched as outreach clinics in 2003 but are now stand alone clinics. We all still interact with each other as a group and share experiences and best practices. The success of that model, based on research, resulted in an island-wide establishment of standardised care for mothers and their children,” she continued.

Dr. Tracy Evans-Gilbert (in blue dress with stethoscope around her neck) and her Team at the Cornwall Regional Hospital

“In a study on deaths at Cornwall regional hospital due to HIV in children we found antiretroviral was the only factor that determined survival in children who were orphaned, had AIDS or had a rapid progression of the disease,” she continued.

According to Dr. Evans-Gilbert, the Ministry of Health has an aggressive Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme that has been yielding significant results.

“Over the last five years at The Cornwall Regional Hospital in Western Jamaica, of 75 HIV infected children, only seven have died and those who survived were more likely to have an improved immune system and suppression of the virus due to antiretrovirals according to lab studies,” she said.

“Over that same five-year period about 400 babies were born to mothers with HIV but only about 3 percent of those babies became HIV infected. Those who died had rapidly progressing disease in infancy and were started on antiretrovirals late.  But that doesn’t happen anymore.  Now that mothers are identified in pregnancy, more babies have a chance of survival when they are enrolled in the prevention of mother to child transmission programme and receive preventative treatment,” she explained.

“It is uncommon for new born babies to be infected and when this happens it is usually because part of the preventative programme has been compromised. As soon as babies are identified in early infancy as positive, life saving antiretroviral agents are started when they are still healthy preventing any progression of the disease,” she continued.

“Compared to the early days of the epidemic when I watched children die due to lack of treatment the mothers and families now have hope. Our team is encouraged to keep pushing until we have less and less newly infected babies and a healthy childhood and longer survival for those who are already infected along with their infected parents.” (End29/07/2011)

Protecting the Caribbean’s Marine Treasures

Head Warden CJ Jeffrey patrolling Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area in Grenada. (E. Doyle)

St. George’s, July 28, 2011 – World Ranger Day is commemorated on July 31 by national parks around the world.

In the Caribbean, let’s take this chance to honour the dedication and passion of the rangers and wardens who work in our region’s marine protected areas – wardens who are at the frontline in protecting the marine environment that we love, such as a Head Warden from Grenada who we profile here.

Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area is considered to be home to some of the finest reefs in Grenada, and Head Warden ‘CJ’ Jeffrey tells us about the work that goes on to protect such a special area.

“We patrol the waters in and around the marine protected area ensuring that visiting boats are on the correct mooring and looking out for other folks using the area,” he says. “We check that all other safety aspects are obeyed like not speeding inside of the boundaries.”

Most important to the wardens is ensuring that there are no illegal activities, especially spear-fishing, which is very destructive to the reef and as such is prohibited. “Marine protected areas play a vital role in helping provide refuges where fish can breed. The fish grow and fill the protected area, and because they’re territorial they then move out into the surrounding waters and help replenish nearby fisheries” CJ explains.

Wardens might give a warning on the first offense, but the second can lead to arrest. “Wardens have the power to arrest because they operate under the Grenada Fisheries Act.”

But policing is only one part of what the wardens do. At Moliniere-Beausejour there are excellent sites for boating, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, and the protected area is home to the famous, world-first underwater sculpture park. So the wardens are also ambassadors for tourism.

“We want to make sure that visitors have a safe time and an environmentally responsible experience. I remember having fantastic times on this part of the coast when I was a child, with clean beaches and lots of amazing sea life,” CJ comments.

Photo: Head Warden CJ Jeffrey patrolling Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area (E. Doyle)

“As more and more pressure is being placed on the environment, I want to help protect these areas and their marine creatures so that I can share the wonders of the sea with my own daughters as they grow up.”

When the wardens are patrolling they’re in communication with tour guides, yachts and dive operators to make sure everyone follows the guidelines and has a great time. “We also answer a lot of questions, things like where can you see a sea horse? ” adds CJ.

Ask him what the best part of his job is, and CJ doesn’t have to stop and think.

“The wardens are all PADI-certified divers and it’s our job to know every inch of Moliniere-Beausejour, both above and below the water. We regularly monitor the coral, fish, lobster and other important species like turtles, and we work with marine biologists to evaluate our findings.”

Mooring maintenance check at Dragon Bay (E. Doyle)

In fact, before working for Grenada Marine Protected Areas, CJ was a professional Dive Master and Dive Instructor who already knew the underwater world of Moliniere-Beausejour like the back of his hand.

Apart from being divers, the wardens get to use some pretty sophisticated equipment in their jobs. They have to be adept at handling and maintaining the patrol boat, they’re proficient marine radio users, and they work with GPS and related computer equipment like geographic information systems. They also install and maintain the marker buoys and mooring buoys in the protected area, on occasion using specialist equipment like underwater jackhammers.

The wardens also do land patrols where they check the marine protected area from vantage points on land. This is where the wardens get to engage with the closest neighbours of Molinere-Beausejour, who are the people of the local communities.

So it’s a very cool job working in a very special place. “The wardens love their day-to-day work out on the water and meeting people” he says, but he also stresses; “It’s an important job that we have in protecting the environment, and it’s a high profile job in our communities, who we want to serve well.”

So what can you and I do to help? CJ says “If locals and visitors alike respect Moliniere-Beausejour’s regulations and understand the importance of protected areas for now and for the future, then you help us to protect the beaches, reefs, fish and other marine biodiversity that we all love.”

Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area is located to the north of St. George’s, from near the north of Grand Mal to the north of Beausejour Bay. White demarcation buoys show the seaward boundary, which runs along the edge of the continental shelf and the seaway for maritime traffic. No anchoring is allowed in the protected area, and fixed red mooring buoys are available for day use, white buoys for mainly the yachts. Please be sure that you leave all marine creatures in place and dispose of all your litter properly.
For more information about Grenada’s Marine Protected Areas, please contact the Fisheries Division on tel +1 473 440 3814 or emailmbmpa@hotmail.com. For more information about the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network and Forum (CaMPAM), seehttp://campam.gcfi.org/campam.php or email emma.doyle@gcfi.org.

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