About PAHO Suriname
PAHO in Suriname
PAHO started on 1 February 1952 with a
program to fight Malaria in Suriname. At that moment PAHO was working
from a field office in Jamaica. The most recent formal agreement between
PAHO/WHO and the Government of Suriname was signed in November 1985.
The first representative
It lasted till 1958 before Suriname was formally introduced in the World Health Organization in Geneva (Switzerland) and in the governing board of PAHO in Washington, DC. Dr. Rathauser was the first PAHO/WHO representative in Suriname in 1969. At that time Dr. Rathauser attention was primarily focused on the control and prevention of diseases, such as malaria, leprosy and filarial but he also paid attention to the control of environmental pollution, (clean water, clean air and clean ground). In 1971 the first regional training on foot and mouth disease was organized in Suriname.
Dr. Gogan became the second official representative of PAHO/WHO Suriname in 1974. In 1975, the year of the independence of Suriname, former director of PAHO, Dr. M. R. Acuna, brought a visit to Suriname and signed a cooperation agreement with the Medical Faculty. There was also a border meeting with Guyana to talk about a possible cooperation between the countries to fight malaria and yellow fever together.
In 1975 an intensive vaccination campaign was started against yellow fever. In a couple of months 26.131 school children were vaccinated. The general vaccination program also got a fixed form in these years. All the children under one year would be vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and infantile paralyses. After a considerable measles epidemic in 1980, the vaccination against measles was added to the program.
The year 1980 was a difficult time for PAHO Suriname.
After the military coup a lot of successful programs, such as the
vaccination program, were stopped. Furthermore the health infrastructure
had suffered during the military regime. Also the important work of the
Medical mission which was started in 1986 had suffered from this war. A
lot of health posts had to close their doors or were destroyed in the
war. The consequence of this was that there was an increase of malaria
and malnutrition in the interior.
Strengthening of the infrastructure
At the end of the late 80`s it became clear that most of the health issues were related to the problems in the health system/infrastructure in Suriname. The health system was lacking good management and they were divided on the financial - and ideology issues. Increasing inflation, open financing and a lack of monitoring on quality and costs were the main cause of the financial problems. In 1992 external donors requested that macro-economic measures had to be taken to restructure the Suriname economy. This led to a structural adjustment program, in which among others the state financial grants to health institutions were strongly reduced.
Also within PAHO/WHO Suriname more attention was given to support - and capacity building of the Ministry of Health. Programs were set up to improve the planning and organization of the Ministry of Health, hospitals in Nickerie and Paramaribo were provided with equipment and material, and investments in trainings of health care managers in the Suriname were made.
Under the guidance of the PAHO/WHO representatives Dr. Michael O`Caroll (1987-1995) en Dr. Habib Latiri (1995-2000), programs for vaccinations, feeding, family planning and youth health care became continuous programs. More attention was also given to improve access to clean water supplies in order to fight disease such as malaria, leprosy, dengue, filaria and cholera. Since 1994 PAHO/WHO Suriname could hire its own employee for the vaccination program with support of the National Vaccination Program.
Although the Ministry of Health remained the most important counterpart, PAHO/WHO Suriname also cooperated with other Ministries, such as the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Agriculture. Other programs were set up to improve the agriculture production and security of food.
Rising of HIV/AIDS
At the end of the 1980`s, AIDS was rising enormously worldwide. To prevent that Suriname would be dragged into the epidemic, a team of consultants was brought to Suriname in 1988 to advise and make recommendations on the prevention - and treatment of AIDS. At that moment 42 cases of HIV were registered, of which half came from other countries, such as Haiti. Suriname took direct measures to prevent escalation of the epidemic. With support of PAHO a special lab for testing people on AIDS was opened, as from that moment all the blood at the blood bank was tested on HIV and a National Aids Program committee was installed with its own coordinator.
Together with the Ministry of Health much progress was made to improve the health care in Suriname over the years. Sicknesses such as infantile paralysis, filarial and measles are hardly occurring these days. Thanks to the rapid advancement of health science it became possible to prevent and heal many diseases and still, much has to be done.