Strengthening Capacity of Border Control for Responding to Infectious Diseases in Pacific Island Countries

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Strengthening Capacity of Border Control for Responding to Infectious Diseases in Pacific Island Countries was the focus of a presentation by UNDP RR, Jorn Sorensen at a forum held at the Lava Hotel in Apia.

Mother’s Specials at SSAB

Speech in Verbatim 

Honourable Senta Keisuke, Ambassador of Japan to Samoa Peseta Noumea Simi, CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo, CEO, Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Akuila Ratu, Head of Secretariat, Pacific Immigration Development Community Jacqueline Weekers, IOM Chief of Mission, Australia and Coordinator to the Pacific

A pleasant good morning to you all from the United Nations and our Resident Coordinator Office for Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.

SOS Samoa – Togafuafua and Salelologa.

I am pleased to address this launch event on behalf of the Resident Coordinator, Dr. Simona Marinescu, who regrettably could not be here in person but has asked me to convey her sincere greetings and remarks.

The Project for Strengthening Capacity of Border Control for Responding to Infectious Diseases in Pacific Island Countries has arrived at an opportune moment. The world and the Pacific region have on balance, managed to reign in the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, we are now at a stage where we can focus on preventative measures to mitigate the impact of future pandemics and shocks of all nature to the region.

On this note, and before I move on, allow me a brief moment to applaud and thank the many development partners – amongst them Japan, New Zealand and Australia; the UN Agencies, particularly WHO; and Pacific Island governments for the excellent work and collaboration that has helped to secure Pacific borders, lives and livelihoods.

Big Sale at Le Well – Savalalo and Salelologa.

As of today, almost all Pacific countries can report a 100 percent rate of vaccination against COVID-19, thanks to the many generous donations, and speedy interventions by our development partners and governments.

These joint actions were critical in staving off the biological effects of the pandemic, which in turn helped save thousands of lives, but which unfortunately could not prevent the economic impact on Pacific economies.

In hindsight, Pacific economies have suffered terribly, and particularly those heavily dependent on tourism. In fact, we can argue that next to the quantum of continued and historical impacts from climate change in the Pacific, the pandemic’s long-term effect on the region’s GDP could be classified as one of the region’s darkest moments.

For example, in Samoa, COVID-19 precipitated a standstill in the economy and an approximate 8 percent decline in gross domestic product in 2020, worth roughly $300 million Samoan Tala, from which the country is still feeling the effects. At the UN, we saw even more precarity in the Cook Islands, who lost almost 5 years’ worth of income and progress in tourism in just one year.

There are several more examples, but the key takeaway I would like to highlight from the region’s experience is that a positive probability of another pandemic dictates the need for a more proactive Pacific approach, not only to ensure mitigation of any future diseases, but also to dampen the potential negative economic fallout on the region.

It is in this vein that we welcome this partnership between the Pacific Immigration Development Community, Government of Japan, Government of Samoa and the International Organisation of Migration.

The Project demonstrates that we have learned from the Pandemic. Indeed, it was arare moment to take stock of the Pacific’s many vulnerabilities. COVID-19 laid bare several issues that have hamstrung the region’s development for decades, including through its lack of resources and narrow resilience.

Surely, we have every confidence that the knowledge, infrastructure, and capacity that this project now brings will help to fill these gaps, and by consequence, assist in strengthening the resilience of its beneficiaries

Closing borders as we have seen is one way to prevent viral spread, but in tandem, it can have deleterious effects, particularly for tourism economies and other sectors dependent on the free movement of people. It is our hope that by reinforcing the capacity of Pacific governments

to better screen, contain and devise appropriate policies for responding to future viruses, that we will in turn help support this continued movement of people and turnover of Pacific economies.

Big Sale at Le Well, Savalalo and Salelologa.

This is crucial. Note, between 2020 and 2022, according to the UN’s Human Development Report, owing to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the world has lost over 25 years’ progress in reducing poverty, and many countries in the Pacific region are now not able to achieve their SDGs by 2030.

At the same time, the slow progress to address climate change at the global level threatens even more pandemics, given the link between change in climate and a forecasted rise in similar zoonotic diseases.

In this way, providing countries in the Pacific with an enhanced ability to protect their borders such that it allows for continuity, will not only save lives, but it will also protect against a widening of inequalities – particularly among women and girls; it will also prevent further slippage in our efforts to eliminate gender-based violence; keep children in school and educated; and prevent a reversal in the fight against poverty.

With these few words, I thank you for the kind invitation and wish the partners and beneficiaries every success in implementing this very important and timely project.

Samoa is the Home of Taula