Barbados leading in development of water and food safety plans

Participants at water and food safety workshop in Barbados

Bridgetown, Barbados, 30 January 2024 (PAHO) -  The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) hosted a workshop for national institutions from January 29th to 31st, 2024, to focus on the development of Climate-Resilient Water Safety and Food Safety Plans. 

Entitled ‘Validation Workshop for Building Climate Resilient Food Safety and Water Safety Plans in Barbados’, the diverse gathering comprised representatives of the following. The Ministry of Health and Wellness; Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security; Ministry of Environment and National Beautification, Blue and Green Economy; Ministry of Transport and Works, Barbados Water Authority, Department of Emergency Management, Barbados Meteorological Service, Best-dos Santos Analytical Laboratory, Government Analytical Services Laboratory, Roofs to Reef Program, Coastal Zone Management Unit, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, InterAmerican Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Barbados Association of NGOs, AnchorBridge Environmental and the Fair Trading Commission, together with PAHO and CARPHA personnel, the supporting partners. 

In 2021 and 2022, under the EU Climate Project, “Strengthening Climate Resilient Health Systems in the Caribbean”, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago were selected as pilot countries to develop national climate resilient food and water safety plans. An inception workshop was hosted last year where teams were identified to draft a national Water Safety Plan and Food Safety Plan for Barbados. At that workshop, hazards, and vulnerabilities were identified, as well as the capacity of institutions to address risks to water and food safety. 

Draft interim reports were prepared to identify the risks to water and food safety in Barbados and this week’s three-day workshop provided the forum for further development of the Climate-Resilient Water Safety and Food Safety Plans. 

Dr. Horace Cox, Assistant Director SDPC/Head VBD, CARPHA

During the opening ceremony, Dr. Horace Cox, Assistant Director SDPC/Head VBD, CARPHA, outlined the threats to food and water security and the need for intervention. “Where health systems are concerned, climate change has already shown significant impacts. Increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, acidification of oceanic waters, prolonged droughts, fires, and intense storms have been experienced globally. These changes directly and indirectly impact food and water safety including changes in pathogen proliferation and transmission, as well as chemical and heavy metal contamination of our food and water supplies. The need for building climate resilience into the national planning process for maintaining future food and water safety becomes more critical than ever.” 

PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr. Amalia Del Riego

PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr. Amalia Del Riego, recounted that “to address these challenges, many Caribbean nations have been actively engaged in international climate negotiations and are advocating for stronger international action to limit global warming and support adaptation efforts. Barbados own Prime Minister, the Hon Mia Amor Mottley, has been a leader – and I would say a great leader and advocate – for more resources for SIDS to help mitigate these impacts.” 

Dr. Del Riego said the multisectoral approach to developing Climate Resilient Water Safety and Food Safety Plans will see Barbados being “the first country that will finish a national comprehensive plan using the One Health approach.” 

Dr. Arthur Phillips, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health and Wellness

Dr. Arthur Phillips, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health and Wellness, embraced the collaborative effort, stating that “no one agency has the ability – though some of us may have various aspects of responsibility – to conceive of and to implement; so that collaboration is going to be important”. 

Dr. Phillips encouraged the gathering to “think carefully about what has been documented, about what you would have shared and how you would have conceived the implementing; and to think not just about the plans but about the goals, responsibilities and coordinating mechanisms and how this is actually going to work.” 

At the conclusion of the workshop, the expected outcome will be sector-wide stakeholder validation of the Draft Climate Resilient National Food and Water Safety Plans, which include risk and infrastructural assessments for food and water safety, collaborative, multisectoral mechanisms to respond to climate-related food and water safety crisis, and integration of current existing national food and water safety plans and policies for Barbados.