The Ministry of Health launched the FCTC 2030 project for Suriname today, Monday 13th July 2020, during a virtual session with the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Suriname was one of nine Parties to the WHO FCTC selected for Phase II of the FCTC 2030 project through an application process.
The FCTC 2030 project aims to support Parties to accelerate implementation of the WHO FCTC, the comprehensive and evidence-based tobacco control treaty, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project is led by the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC in partnership with WHO and UNDP, with additional support from civil society experts and academic institutions. It is delivered though funding generously provided by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and Norway. One of the core elements of the project is the provision of targeted support to a selected number of low- and middle-income countries that have demonstrated considerable motivation to advance tobacco control.
Suriname ratified the WHO FCTC in 2008. It has one of the most comprehensive laws on tobacco control in the Caribbean region mandating implementation of key effective measures as established in the Strategy and Plan of Action to strengthen tobacco control in the Americas 2018-2022. The FCTC 2030 project is therefore an opportunity to access technical support for strengthening enforcement of the tobacco control law, developing a comprehensive, costed national tobacco control strategy and supporting the development of national tobacco cessation guidelines. The project also includes a needs assessment exercise and an “investment case” to demonstrate the social and economic benefits of comprehensive WHO FCTC implementation in Suriname.
During the launch event, Dr. Karen Bell-Lewis, PAHO/WHO Representative in Suriname underlined the support to be given to the Government, in particular the Ministry of Health, including assistance with the development of a four-year national tobacco control strategy in line with the Global Strategy to Accelerate Tobacco Control, and also the development of national guidelines for the creation of cessation services. Dr. Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the Convention Secretariat, then highlighted the devastating consequences of tobacco use on health, the economy and the environment. She described the WHO FCTC, the first international health treaty, as a powerful tool to fight the tobacco epidemic. She also highlighted that tobacco use leads to non-communicable diseases which increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection. The UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Dr. Margaret Jones Williams, described how tobacco use impedes sustainable development and how the FCTC 2030 project will contribute to the achievement of the SDGs in Suriname. She stressed that UNDP stands ready to support the effort of the government of Suriname to address the key governance and development aspects of tobacco control. Mr Andrew Black, Coordinator of Development Assistance at the Convention Secretariat, elaborated on the support that can be provided through the FCTC 2030 project despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mrs. Farisha Sheombar Sing, Tobacco Focal Point at the Bureau of Public Health presented the activities to be implemented through March 2021.
Dr. Robert Mohamed, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health, thanked the Convention Secretariat, UNDP and PAHO for their support on behalf of the Minister of Health, the Honorable Antoine Elias. Dr. Mohamed underlined the importance of the project as the country faces an increase in COVID-19 infections. Tobacco users are most likely to suffer from lung disease or reduced lung capacity which greatly increases their risk of serious illness from COVID-19 infection. Suriname will therefore benefit from the support through this project including the focus on developing national smoking cessation guidelines.
Dr Carmen Audera, FCTC 2030 Regional Consultant with the Convention Secretariat, closed the official launch with an overview of next steps and assurance of support to be given to the government during the coming months.