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Bunting urges region to be militant in facing Ebola

Published:Tuesday | October 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

With countries of the Caribbean region and Latin America at risk of a potential outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, National Security Minister Peter Bunting is calling for countries to take steps to protect their borders and to treat the disease as a threat to national security.

Bunting made the call as he spoke during the three-day XI Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas, which concludes today in Arequipa, Peru.

"Many of our countries have been ravaged by the chikungunya virus ... and with the recent diagnosis in the United States, the threat of an even more deadly disease, the Ebola virus, is now on our doorsteps," Bunting said. "The devastation caused by the Ebola virus in countries across the African continent is clear evidence that we must not take this threat lightly. We must act cooperatively if we are to prevent the spread of Ebola ... and other diseases throughout our region."

Military health systems

In keeping with the focus of the conference, the national security minister noted that the Jamaican delegation was looking forward to garnering further technical information on the establishment and management of military health systems in emergency situations, including states of emergency that may be declared amid a pandemic.

Since the outbreak of the chikungunya virus, Jamaica has activated its National Emergency and Operation Centre, driven by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, the Jamaica Defence Force, and the Ministry of Health.

Another matter of priority that is of critical importance to national security, Bunting said, was in the area of cooperation in search and rescue operations. Jamaica is currently the focal point for the Northern Caribbean region for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

Greater cooperation

"While we have improved the skills and capabilities of our officers to respond to such emergencies over the past years, the complex nature of today's emergencies has placed an even greater strain on our defence force to effectively carry out the duties assigned ... . We look forward to greater cooperation and collaboration with countries of the region through training and sharing of best practices that will enable us to build capacity in this critical area," he stated.

Turning to organised crime, as well as the illicit firearms and ammunition trade, Bunting noted that Jamaica continued to play a critical role in combating such threats to include the recognition of the Arms Trade Treaty, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in March 2013. He urged countries to support its adoption in the declaration, noting that it has the potential to further control the flow of weapons and ammunition across the region.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines for hospitals in the prevention and control of Ebola transmission. These are the personal protective-gear recommendations for health-care personnel working with a potentially infected patient.