Abortions in Jamaica: No ‘nine day wonder’ matter

  • Abortions in Jamaica have once again been sling shot into the spotlight, this time by a set of articles published this past Sunday in one of the local newspapers.

They reveal an eyebrow-raising number of attempted abortions among patients visiting the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) and the reaction of Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton.

According to this week’s Sunday Gleaner, “between January and September of this year, of the 1,088 expectant mothers who presented to VJH with bleeding in early pregnancy, 91 admitted to having attempted to abort the foetus while an additional 47 had complications that suggested they had attempted abortion”.

Tufton has since ordered an audit that is to take stock of the abortions, together with an assessment of family planning methods, fostering and adoption as well as public education.

Image result for Christopher Tufton
Dr. Christopher Tufton (Photo:JIS)

“It is a sad commentary on our society when women, mostly young and poor, put their lives at risk, with apparently not much consideration for themselves or unborn foetus … it tells me that we are doing something wrong as a society and that we are failing to adequately respond to their concerns and needs,” the minister is quoted as saying.

This is an instructive quote.  It gives one pause to think on the contending views and realities, political and otherwise, of abortions.

But also, more broadly, on maternal, neonatal and infant health (MNIH) in the country and the challenges (and, yes, opportunities) that exist on the road to reaching Sustainable Development Goal 3.

The targets for that goal in relation to MNIH include:

  • By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births;
  • By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births; and
  • By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.

These are sobering targets that warrant more than the audit ordered by the minister.

With unsafe abortions among the leading causes of maternal mortality, it is vital that this most recent ‘buzz’ not amount to a mere “nine day wonder”, as is often said of issues that attract much chatter but no appropriate response actions that yield real gains — from informed policy shifts to concrete local interventions.

Abortions are not going to fade into the background. The statistics tell that story. The Sunday Gleaner references a 2014 study that found “more than 43 per cent of expectant mothers who were admitted with complications had attempted abortions”.

Of that 43 per cent, the article said, “only 10 per cent had at first admitted that they attempted to abort the pregnancy”.

Isn’t it time to put to bed the “nine day wonder” and rise to action?


You can read more on this issue at the links below.










An education in Caribbean energy

CSEF 2017 delegates during a working group session on Monday, January 23.

Up to last June, energy was a subject to which I directed little of my attention unless and until it came up in the context of the climate change challenge facing the Caribbean and — of course — on the monthly occasion of my electricity bill appearing in the mail.

Things have changed as my education has deepened — fuelled by an ever-ballooning interest and the development imperative with which I must contend as, inter alia, country head of a NGO, Panos Caribbean, which has, in particular, vulnerable and marginalised people as our focus.

This is even as we spotlight issues — old and emergent — on subjects including disaster risk reduction, climate justice and gender mainstreaming, among others, that are too often not given the degree of attention by critical stakeholders such as our media and politicians, which is required for lasting change, in the interest of communities.

From left: Professor Jeffrey Sachs of The Earth Institute at Columbia University with Dr. Damien King and Professor Anthony Clayton at the UWI energy forum last June.

Last June, the University of the West Indies hosted the energy and sustainable development forum in Kingston, Jamaica, bringing together a variety of regional energy and development actors.

The forum helped to bring into sharp focus the linkages between energy efficiency and sustainable development in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Indeed, if there was nothing else to come from that conference, it was the awareness — renewed, perhaps — that the one was necessary for the other.

One needs not look beyond the requirement of production in the region for energy. Higher energy costs — as has plagued member states due, inter alia, to a variety of inefficiencies — mean higher production costs, which translate into the higher cost of goods on our store shelves.

Dr. Devon Gardner

At the UWI energy forum, I spoke to Dr. Devon Gardner, programme manager for energy and head of the CARICOM Energy Unit about the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) that sets the framework for a set of energy goals in the region.

See story here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20160623/energy-efficiency-strategy-coming-caribbean

Included among the C-SERMS goals are:

  • 20 per cent renewable power capacity by 2017 — a target missed, at least for the moment;
  • 28 per cent by 2028; and
  • 47 per cent by 2027.

It also sets targets for:

  • a 33 per cent reduction in energy intensity (the cost of converting energy into GDP) by 2027; and
  • a 47 per cent reduction by 2027.

The months since that forum have yielded more information and enhanced awareness about energy energy in the Caribbean.


  • There is a lot going on in the region and involving a variety of national country actors, all of whom have some sort of policy/policy framework that treats with energy. In addition to the policies, there are a host of projects that have provided important lessons.
  • The CARICOM Energy Programme is ambitious in its outlook and has a team of people and partners who are excited about energy and their planned programme of work. Among other things, they are looking at and undertaking research to match opportunities with capacities at country level while reimagining the future of CARICOM energy that takes account of renewables and which is market driven.
  • Financing, capacity building and communications are especially critical for success in the move toward sustainable energy and energy efficiency in the region, in pursuit of sustainable development.
  • Partnerships will be essential to realising CARICOM ambitions for energy.
  • None of these are points lost on any of the key actors involved, including principals at CARICOM Energy, notably Gardner and his team.

This last point is nowhere more clear than in The Bahamas where the fifth Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) got under way earlier on Monday, January 23. It has attracted a variety of professionals, among them energy specialists, communicators, politicians and policymakers as well as development partners/donors — from the World Bank to the Inter-American Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as well as GIZ.

At the end of the three days of deliberations, the goal is to have a clearer picture of how to get the region where it needs to be concerning energy sustainability and efficiency.

Perry Christie.JPG

This was reflected in the statements of presenters at the opening ceremony, among them Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie who has urged urgency in moving things from talk to action.

Tessa W Robertson.JPG

Tessa Williams-Robertson, head of the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency at the CBD, for her part, had high praise for the CSEF.

“I recall the first CSEF that I attended in 2012 in St. Kitts and Nevis. I was impressed by the work that was being done then to promote a sustainable energy path for the region,” she recalled.

“The subsequent approval in 2013 of the CARICOM Energy Policy and the creation of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy and its regional targets, were watershed moments for all of us in the region. They provided the required focus and context for stakeholders to determine our specific roles, consistent with our comparative advantages,” she added.

“The role this forum plays in facilitating dialogue on sustainable energy development; creating a space for sharing good practices, ideas and lessons learned; and in driving decision-making, policy and action across the Caribbean, cannot be underestimated,” Williams-Robertson said further.

James Fletcher bats for Adaptation Fund

MARRAKECH, Morocco — DR James Fletcher, a well-respected figure in global climate circles and former head of the CARICOM Task Force on Sustainable Development, has come out to bat for the Adaptation Fund, whose future under the Paris Agreement is being hotly contested.

“I think the Adaptation Fund should sit under the Paris Agreement. You see, the Adaptation Fund is very important because the Adaptation Fund is specifically for adaptation. The Green Climate Fund deals with both mitigation and adaptation and if you listen to some of the pledges that have been made, there is still a heavy bias towards mitigation,” he said, from the international climate talks being held here.

Dr. James Fletcher

“For us in the Caribbean, mitigation is important because mitigation will allow us to transform our economies, give us the energy security that we need. But as far as greenhouse gases are concerned, mitigation means nothing for the Caribbean. We contribute what, one quarter of one per cent of greenhouse gases?” he argued.

“So whilst from a moral perspective and also from an economic transformation perspective we are quite interested in mitigation and we want the mitigation funds to flow — particularly those mitigation funds that will give us access to grant or concessional financing, so some of our initiatives in geo-thermal and others can take place — the biggest issue for us is adaptation,” he said.

Investment in adaptation will enhance the ability of Caribbean islands — which are especially vulnerable to climate change — to be ready for and recover from climate impacts, including sea-level rise and extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts.

Already a number of Caribbean islands — among them Jamaica — have benefitted from the Adaptation Fund, which is helping to boost the resilience of the local agriculture and tourism sectors.

According to Fletcher, one needs not look very far for the evidence of the Caribbean’s vulnerability and the need for the Adaptation Fund.

“We need to see there is money for adaptation for us to make our infrastructure more resilient, our health sector more resilient, our agriculture more resilient, our water sector more resilient. These are issues that are very pressing and every time we have a hurricane season, every time we have a drought season, it really brings home the fact that we are way behind time where adaptation measures are concerned,” noted Fletcher, also the former minister for sustainable development for Saint Lucia, who is providing technical support for CARICOM at this year’s international climate talks.

Recent years have seen the Adaptation Fund struggling to raise needed funds to support its projects, following the decline in resources from the sale of certified emissions reduction credits from Clean Development Mechanism projects.

Fortunately, countries have been dipping into their coffers, with the result that the fund has been able to continue to do its work. This year alone, it had a target to reach US$80 million and up to yesterday afternoon, the news was it had received pledges for up to US$81 million.

Meanwhile, the fund — which was operationalised in 2010 — enjoys the trust and esteem of developing countries that for the first time, through its establishment, were able to enjoy direct access to funding for their approved projects.

It also has a readiness programme that supports the capacity of countries to effectively design and implement projects while, as a matter of policy, emphacising civil society participation and the need for gender mainstreaming.



Caribbean strives for strength through partnerships in battle for climate security

The team of CARICOM leaders, negotiators and support staff at the Marrakech Talks earlier this week.

Jamaica and other Caribbean countries are looking at partnerships to ensure the security of the islands’ future, in the face of global climate change.

After two weeks here — three weeks for some, notably negotiators — it is clear that this will be critical.

The truth is, negotiating climate change is like dancing the Tango. To be effective, you need to be familiar with the music and if you’re not, you need to get familiar — and fast. Essential, too, is having a partner because no one dances the Tango alone. What is more, you need to know, understand and remain in sync with your partner, ever mindful of his/her foot.

Jamaica gets it, as do other Caribbean countries, whose leaders have been working — backed by their team of seasoned negotiators, which CARICOM has — in concert with each other and key international partners to get what they need from the negotiations. No where was this more evident than in Paris last year and they have continued those efforts this year.

“Climate change is of fundamental importance to Jamaica, ensuring that we have strong regulation, and monitoring regulations, in place to ensure that Jamaica is put in the best possible position to mitigate and to adapt — and do so as far as is absolutely necessary for our survival. Jamaica is, of course, a part of CARICOM where we have many common issues and we are also a part of AOSIS [Alliance of Small Island States]…” noted Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith.

“We continue to foster these relationships, very much as part of our strategy to ensure that we are a part of a body and a group of islands that have shared concerns, shared interests and shared vulnerabilities. This has given us additional strength at the bargaining table and in the negotiating process  — and one we certainly intend to continue to ensure,” she added.

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Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister (second right) and UnaMay Gordon (left), head of the Climate Change Division with Petre Williams-Raynor (right), Country Director, Panos Caribbean – Jamaica, and Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, consultant with Panos Caribbean.

Johnson Smith emphasized the role of partnerships in ensuring success here at what has been dubbed a “procedures COP” and later, as the wrangling over climate change, and, more particularly, on climate finance, continues.

Up to this afternoon, discussions were still ongoing on long-term climate financing, even as countries speculate on the future of such funds from the United States, with businessman and climate sceptic Donald Trump set to replace Barack Obama in the White House.

“Bilaterlal relations are always important to sustain and support our multilateral spaces. Jamaica is to continue to ensure that we are well positioned in both. Our foreign policy certainly looks at strengthening partnerships with existing partners and we are also looking at strengthening relationships with non-traditional partners and new partners within the Hispano-phone countries, which are near to us, such as the Dominican Republic, stronger relations with Cuba, stronger relations with Panama and Mexico,” Johnson Smith noted.

Several Caribbean heads of state have made the effort to be present in Marrakech for this the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. They included David Granger from Guyana, Allen Chastanet from Saint Lucia, Ralph Gonsalves from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Roosevelt Skerrit from Dominica, and Andrew Holness from Jamaica.

What is more, they came with some clear goals in mind.

“One of the reasons for me attending here is to be able to meet the other world leaders. Today (Tuesday, November 15) was a very successful day in that. I had a long talk with the Caribbean leaders who were here, including Saint Lucia. Prime Minister Chastanet and myself discussed the issue of the structure of the funding,” Holness said.

“There are various ideas about how we can access the funding. I think where there is an agreement is that countries like ourselves need to improve our capacity to write the projects, to gather the data, to analyse the data and to present a case to access the funding. There is also a great deal, I would say, of suspicion, disbelief that countries will actually get the resources and the magnitude of resources necessary and so there is usually some attempt to say ‘let’s go and negotiate bilaterally’,” he added.

Holness issued a caution in this while reflecting the position of minister Johnson Smith concerning unity in strength.

“I think staying together as a group, keeping the funding on an international agreement level is also beneficial. That does not stop you, of course, from negotiating bilaterally for assistance,” he said.

The Marrakech Climate Talks are to end officially today.


Join the energy conversation this month… CARICOM hosts webinar today

Details of the CARICOM Energy Forum set for Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. EST.

IT’S been a few months since last I wrote a blog; I’ve been going through one of these ‘blog block’ phases where inspiration is limited and time even more so. Alas, I’m back and in full effect — at least for the time being — and all for CARICOM Energy Month (CEM2016), which warrants our individual and collective attention, certainly in the region.

The starting point is today — Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. EST — when regional stakeholders will gather online for a webinar titled “Energy Pricing: My Fuel Cost”.

It is to feature a mix of presentations from across the region and discussions among international industry experts, as well as representatives from refineries, marketing and distribution companies and governments.

As the Caricom summary puts it “from gasoline to diesel, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas, fuels help to power our lives”. It is, therefore, a webinar for all who are interested in getting a handle on the cost of fuel and what they can do to influence the costs.

A sample of artwork that placed second in the photo and art competition of last year’s Caricom Energy Week.

It is the first in a series of knowledge webinars being hosted by the CARICOM Secretariat in collaboration with Panos Caribbean and New Energy Events this month, to boost awareness of energy issues in the region and help people find their role in charting a way forward for Caribbean energy.

It is being done under the theme “Sustainable Energy for Sustainable Development” (#SE4SD). Nice, right? Well, in case you missed that last hint, #CEM2016 is important for a number of reasons:

  1. Energy is the new black. It is the subject of now, considerations and decisions about which have far-reaching implications for island economies in particular as well as to the global effort to fight climate change. Think emissions.
  2. Many Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, are burdened by an enormous energy bill which, if not tackled, could railroad any shot at sustainable development.
  3. The Caribbean as a whole utilises far more energy than is optimal to produce a single United States dollar of gross domestic product (GDP). CARICOM countries collectively use some 13,000 Btu of energy to produce one US dollar of GDP compared to 4,000 Btu of energy used by Japan, as one example. This is to produce the same one US dollar of GDP and the global average of 10,000 Btu.
  4. #CEM2016, as we are calling is about opportunities. So yes, there are some weighty issues with which we have to contend re energy, but there are opportunities that exist — including the chance to collaborate with each other to solve some of our energy woes.

So where does all this leave us? Joining the webinar today: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1491162446055247874

You can dial in using +1646-749-3129 (U.S.) with the Access Code: 489-491-389. 

More phone numbers:                                                                                                                      Canada +1 (647) 497-9350                                                                                                                        United Kingdom +44 (0) 330 221 0086

Meanwhile #CEM2016 is not only about the webinars. There are a series of other items on the agenda, including a photo and art competition and a regional news reporting competition, together with a number of local-level activities in countries.

Also, do feel free to keep on top of #CEM2016 by following Panos Caribbean on Instagram and @panoscaribbean on Twitter. You will also want to follow @CaricomEnergy on Twitter as well as on IG — and JOIN THE CONVERSATION.

More anon.

Related links:




Jamaica’s new Cabinet raises eyebrows among environmentalists, but…

JAMAICA’S PM Andrew Holness caused more than a few raised eyebrows yesterday, with the exclusion of the environment and/or climate change from a named ministry in his Cabinet.

And a variety of stakeholders have commented.

Independent blogger and social media activist Emma Lewis said: “I am appalled at the lack of an environment portfolio. I can only assume that this was an oversight on the part of the Prime Minister”.

“Did he simply forget?” she questioned.


Emma Lewis

“Understandably, there is major and important emphasis on economic growth in the new Cabinet. I understand the three Ministers without Portfolio in the OPM are all charged with ensuring economic growth. This signals to me, in the words of the last environment minister: ‘The economy outweighs all other considerations’. What about sustainable development. What about climate change?” Lewis noted further.

Meanwhile, as reflected in a Gleaner piece I did, published today, other civil society actors working in the environment were equal parts shocked and dismayed even as they hold to the hope that clarification will come — one that reflects some careful thought having been given to the environment, to include water and climate change.

“I don’t think this first signal is a very positive one. It used to be that the environment portfolio moved around from ministry to ministry. Now it would it seem to have disappeared entirely,” JET boss Diana McCaulay has commented.

For his part, head of the Southern Trelawny Environment Agency Hugh Dixon said: “I think with growth and prosperity being the sort of thrust of the new government, it seems to be an awful oversight as the issues that are at the forefront of development are predicated to a great extent on an awareness and sensitivity to [for example] climate change.”

Hugh Dixon
Hugh Dixon (Photo contributed)

“I would, with caution, say that I hope that wherever it has been dispensed to, it holds some order of priority consistent with its current standing globally and any sort of growth and development agenda,” Dixon added.

In the wake of their comments, the PM today released a statement indicating that the environment portfolio is now under his office.

“Prime Minister Andrew Holness is pleased to advise that the environment portfolio is situated within the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM),” said the statement from his office.

“The Prime Minister has always expressed a keen interest in the environment and considers good and responsible environmental management and planning as critical to facilitating economic growth and sustainable development,” it added.

And locating the portfolio in his office, he promised, bodes well for the priority the issues are to be given.

“The Prime Minister has taken a proactive role where environmental management and climate change mitigation efforts are concerned by situating this important portfolio in his office. With the environment portfolio in the OPM, it will benefit from effective planning and coordination of government activities and ensuing synergies in the land, water and housing portfolios which are also situated in that office,” the statement said.






Green living & the Paris Climate Talks

Energy station
COP21 participants cycle to recharge their batteries. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)

From free rides in electric cars to stations that allow participants to cycle in order to recharge their batteries, the Paris climate talks have offered options to ‘live green’.

“It is young, but it must be the future,” said Lorent Darrigarand of the electric car, the Renault ZOE.

He is the driver one of the Renault ZOE fleet of motocars made freely available to participants for transport to and from their hotels.

According to Darrigarand, it cost only 2 Euros to park and fill up on gas for the electric car in Paris, while it would cost 5 Euros to park a gas car in the city — on top of the cost for petrol.

The car, he said, runs about 140 kilometres before needing a refill — perfect for going to and from work within city limits.

It also handles well, with an easy pick-up and virtually noise-free engine.

The ZOE can be purchased for about 15,000 Euros, Darrigarand revealed in a conversation with the Gleaner.

But it has not stopped there at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) that constitutes the talks, where paper and cardboard are materials that make up chairs on show at one booth.

At the same time, welcome bags — some red, others green — and sections of the venue are made from repurposed material.

There are, too, several sorting bins — labeled with the message ‘Give value to your waste’ — that allow easy and appropriate separation of plastics from paper and organic items.

One of the sorting bins at COP21 which encourages “give value to your waste’. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)

In addition, in buying a warm beverage from Alto Café, participants pay forward a Euro — on top of the cost of the drink — for the ‘Eco Cup’ in which it is served. Should participants return the cup, they are reimbursed the Euro.

Eco Cup
The Eco Cup that earns its holder one Euro back of money spent for a warm beverage. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)

“It’s encouraging to see that the organisers are doing as we would say in Jamaica, ‘dance a yaad before you dance abroad’,” said journalist Desmond Brown, who has been covering the talks.

“The steps I see being taken here, though small, tell me the organisers are not only talking the talk about saving the earth, they are walking the walk,” he added.

Together, the efforts count toward making the negotiations climate neutral “by measuring and reducing the carbon footprint” of participants who have flown from across the globe to be present.