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Apr 24, 2013

Vaccination Week in the Americas inside adjacency zone

This morning Belizeans and Guatemalans gathered in the OAS-administered Adjacency Zone between the Belize and Guatemala borders, but there was no talk of the referendum, no conversation about a claim, and no discussion of a territorial dispute. This morning was all about sharing responsibility and joining forces to ensure that residents of both countries are vaccinated against disease. The occasion was the regional launch of Vaccination Week in the Americas, and as the name implies, it was huge. The area affectionately known as Champon was packed to overflowing with high-level government officials, dignitaries, school-children and residents of Belize and Guatemala, and while the mood was celebratory, the message of joining hands and hearts to help both our peoples was a strong one. Freelance reporter Mike Rudon travelled west and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The launch of Vaccination Week in the Americas was coordinated by PAHO, the Pan-American Health and the World Health Organization, and the critical importance of the reason for the event was highlighted by the attendance of high-level dignitaries and government officials from both Belize and Guatemala. The United Nations Resident Coordinator, who spoke on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, summed up the message, and the intent in his opening words.

 

Robert Valent

Robert Valent, UN Resident Coordinator

“We have reached four out of five children worldwide. Now it is time to reach that fifth child where he or she may be. We must break down all barriers that stand in our way.”

 

And if the show of support and intent between Belize and Guatemala is any indication, many of those barriers have already been discarded. Director of PAHO Carissa Etienne says that vaccination is a major priority of the organization, but certainly not the only one.

 

Carissa Etienne, Director, PAHO

“Vaccination is one of our key programs and must continue to be because the survival of many of our children depends on whether they are being vaccinated. And so this will continue to be an important priority for us. But moving forward, particularly for this area of this region of Americas, we have to see about chronic diseases—the non-communicable deceases. We have to ensure that we continue the fight against HIV/Aids and other communicable diseases. As well, we need to make sure that our people are ready to face the disasters and emergencies. We have rising incidents of violence and as a community and so PAHO will work with member states to address some of the issues that underline violence. Apart from that, we need to make sure that we can mobilize the resources that are necessary for this organization to continue to support members states and to deliver technical cooperation.”

 

And like with all else, there are many challenges along the way, especially in the rural communities of both countries.

 

Carissa Etienne

“Our major challenge for vaccination as is for any of our programs is reaching the people in the very rural communities and what we term our vulnerable and marginalized population; like our indigenous population, like some of the poor that dwell in our communities—and that is our major challenge. Apart from that, it is ensuring as an organization that we continue to support member states to be able to purchase and obtain the vaccines that are necessary for the immunization program.”

 

The significance of the concerted effort by Belize and Guatemala in the midst of issues like the referendum is not lost on Etienne, and while that was not the reason for the selection of the location for the launch, she says that health knows no borders.

 

Carissa Etienne

Carissa Etienne

“We have celebrated vaccination week for eleven years and we usually do the launching either on the border or in a location where we can involve more than one country. So this year we thought we’d come to Belize and we can do it both with Belize and Guatemala. Health knows know borders and illnesses knows no borders. So it is very important that we bring countries together because it is only by acting in solidarity that we can obtain our objectives and meet the health needs of our peoples. People go across borders every day and our health services have to be aligned and prepared to deliver those services wherever those people are. And that requires the solidarity of governments and the coming together of governments.”

 

Minister of Health Pablo Marin, with his Guatemalan counterpart Jorge Villavicencio, shared the sentiment of Etienne, and also shared a spirit of accord and unity.

 

Pablo Marin

Pablo Marin, Minister of Health

“We have a lot of families in both areas—in Belize and Guatemala—so this just shows that we are brothers in the eyes of whoever wants to see. And in health, I want to mention that there is no boundaries; we cannot be fighting about anything. And we have to fight, but for the people that needs the help from the health system. And both of us ministers of health from Guatemala and Belize will do what we have to for us to help our people in Belize and Guatemala.”

 

And from serious moments to not so serious moments, we’ll let the following images during the entertainment portion of the launch speak for themselves. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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2 Responses for “Vaccination Week in the Americas inside adjacency zone”

  1. ASHAMED says:

    this mimster should keep his mouth shut. he is a moron, nothing he says makes any sense.. a doctor needs to be the minister of health. when would a wire man be attorney general. it is the same thing, this moron is useless in that capacity, and it shows everytime he speaks publicly.

  2. Storm says:

    Crocodiles smile before they strike.

    This health mission has absolutely nothing to do with the aggressive political and diplomatic agenda of the Guat tyranny.

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