By Shermain Bique-Charles
Minister of State in the Ministry of Health Samantha Marshall believes that Antigua and Barbuda’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic would not have been successful without financial input from certain agencies.
In March 2021, the government sought assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank for financing aimed at enhancing the country’s Covid-19 crisis response, promoting resilience, and building and facilitating recovery in the health sector.
This initiative represented one of the country’s strategic responses to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which posed unprecedented challenges to the twin island nation.
The overarching objective of the project, funded through the loan facility, was to enhance local capacity to mitigate the direct and indirect impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health of the population.
Yesterday, Marshall told the launch of a Covid-19 Health Response Project funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) that, thanks to the support of both the Inter-American Development Bank and CDB, Antigua and Barbuda received a loan of around $4.68 million to invest in its health care.
“With just over $1.5 million being allocated to retroactive pay for the investment made by Antigua and Barbuda to strengthen our Covid-19 health care management strategy, other monies were allocated towards the equipping of a new renal centre and the purchase of critical diagnostic equipment to include a new incinerator and oxygen plant for the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre.
“Such investment will certainly help us here in Antigua and Barbuda to deal with the current challenges that we face, ensuring that our healthcare sector has the necessary tools and resources to effectively combat the pandemic, and at the same time to improve the healthcare services that we currently provide,” she said.
Meanwhile, Marshall said the country has still not fully recovered from the pandemic.
“As we navigated during the Covid-19 landscape, we were confronted with a range of challenges within our healthcare sector. These challenges included, but were not limited to, insufficient capacity to limit the transmission of Covid-19, reduced ability to provide critical health care services, an increase in unplanned expenditure, limited laboratory testing capacity, and the management of individuals with non-communicable diseases and comorbidities,” she added.
Marshall said the project serves as a learning opportunity, enabling health officials and the country at large to draw valuable lessons from the experiences of recent years.
“The Gaston Browne-led administration remains steadfast in our commitment to prioritising the protection of the health of our population as our people are our most vulnerable economic resource.
“I, therefore, wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Inter-American Development Bank for providing us with this crucial loan facility, and to the Caribbean Development Bank for not being only a facilitator, but also a very significant partner in this programme,” she added.
The Caribbean Development Bank made available emergency loans to Antigua and Barbuda and six other Caribbean countries, in the first instance, to finance the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
CDB’s response to Covid-19 to date tops US$200 million, with US$140 million that can be used by the bank’s borrowing member countries to tackle the fallout of the pandemic, as well as any other shocks to their economies.