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Europe observes a 4-fold increase in measles cases in 2017 compared to previous year

SINT MAARTEN/EUROPE - Measles has rebounded in the WHO (World Health Organization) European Region. The disease affected 21 315 people and caused 35 deaths in 2017, following a record low of 5273 cases in 2016.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe has released new data for 2017 one day ahead of a health ministerial meeting on immunization in Montenegro on 20 February 2018.

“Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated. Over 20 000 cases of measles, and 35 lives lost in 2017 alone, are a tragedy we simply cannot accept,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“Elimination of both measles and rubella is a priority goal that all European countries have firmly committed to, and a cornerstone for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals,” Dr Jakab continues. “This short-term setback cannot deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all.”

Large measles outbreaks affect 1 in 4 European countries

The surge in measles cases in 2017 included large outbreaks (100 or more cases) in 15 of the 53 countries in the Region. The highest numbers of affected people were reported in Romania (5562), Italy (5006) and Ukraine (4767).

These countries have experienced a range of challenges in recent years, such as declines in overall routine immunization coverage, consistently low coverage among some marginalized groups, interruptions in vaccine supply or underperforming disease surveillance systems.

Greece (967), Germany (927), Serbia (702), Tajikistan (649), France (520), the Russian Federation (408), Belgium (369), the United Kingdom (282), Bulgaria (167), Spain (152), Czechia (146) and Switzerland (105) also experienced large outbreaks, many of which were in decline by the close of 2017.

Actions to stop the current outbreaks and prevent new ones are taking place on various fronts. They include raising public awareness, immunizing health-care professionals and other adults at particular risk, addressing challenges in access, and improving supply planning and logistics.

Progress continues despite upturn in cases

The process of verifying measles and rubella elimination by country, introduced in 2012, has moved the Region closer to its measles and rubella elimination goal. Each year, the independent Regional Verification Commission (RVC) reviews country data and immunization activities and recommends actions to resolve the specific challenges faced by countries.

As of the end of 2016, 42 of the 53 countries in the Region had interrupted endemic measles transmission. However, outbreaks will continue to occur until every susceptible child and adult is protected.

Ministers of health of 11 countries will meet on 20 February 2018 to discuss working together to achieve the goals set out in the European Vaccine Action Plan (EVAP) by 2020, including measles and rubella elimination.

A Region-wide midterm EVAP progress report will be presented at the 68th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September 2018.

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CBA receives generous donation from Kay’s Fine Jewelery

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - On Thursday February 13, 2018, founder of Kay’s Fine Jewelry Mr. Dan Chugani and Mr. Vish Chugani, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) presented a cheque donation of US$ 8,840.00 to the Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performance Arts on behalf of their organization and around the world.

After the passing of Hurricane Irma, the founders wanted to find a way to help. In doing so, on September 10, 2017 Kay’s Fine Jewelry Creative Director, Tesh Chugani set out to design a beautiful bracelet that their clients could wear around the world in support of St Maarten.

On September 29, 2017 a newsletter was sent to their clients. Kay’s Fine Jewelry sold the bracelets for $99 with the promise that $20 would be donated to an organization on St Maarten to help rebuild. The bracelet would be sold until December 31st, where they would then tally the total and make a donation.

Kay’s Fine Jewelry clients purchased a total of 221 bracelets, which helped generate $4,420 for an organization here on St Maarten. Dan & Raj Chugani, being the founding figures of Kay's Fine Jewelry, decided that they wanted to match the donation from their clients bringing the total donation to $8,840, which they were able to now donate.

Over the past few weeks, Kay’s Fine Jewelry visited several organizations to see what was needed and how they could best help. After visiting the Charlotte Brookson Academy, the founders believed that this was the right place to donate the funds received.

The work being done by the Charlotte Brookson Academy and their faculty and staff providing students with an education is exceptional.  Under the current conditions it is nothing short of amazing and inspirational.

The children are our future and Kay’s Fine Jewelry appreciates the Charlotte Brookson Academy time, effort and passion dedicated to them.

Director of the Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performance Arts (CBA), Mrs K. Claudette Forsythe- Labega expressed deep appreciation and sincere gratitude to the Chugani family on behalf of her students. She said that the school will shortly be moving to its new home and that the donation would go long way towards facilitating the move.

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Growing trade deficits in the Caribbean Netherlands

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS - In 2017, the trade deficits of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba were higher than in the previous year. In relative terms, St Eustatius saw the sharpest increase in annual deficit.

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures.

The Caribbean Netherlands has a structural trade deficit, with imports exceeding exports. Production is relatively low on the islands in comparison with the European part of the Netherlands.

Trade deficit one and a half times higher on St Eustatius

In 2017, the trade deficit of St Eustatius amounted to 52 million US dollars, 50 percent up on the previous year. Imports of goods on St Eustatius rose by 50 percent (55 million US dollars) while exports rose by 58 percent (2.5 million US dollars) relative to 2016. The value of imports was at its highest in Q4 2017, namely 15 million US dollars.

Saba: imports up, exports down

On Saba, imports were up and exports were down in value on 2016. The island’s annual trade deficit in 2017 stood at 17 million US dollars, an increase of 7 percent. The highest import value on Saba was recorded in Q2.

Highest import value on Bonaire in Q4

Bonaire’s trade deficit amounted to 202 million US dollars in 2017, 5 percent up on the previous year. Both imports and exports increased. In Q4, Bonaire imported 60 million US dollars worth of goods, representing the highest quarterly value of 2017 and the highest import value since measurements started in 2011.

Fewer imports of manufactured goods on Bonaire

Bonaire imported 213 million US dollars worth of goods in 2017, 6 percent more than in 2016. Import values were higher in virtually all product sections. The sharpest increase was seen in machinery and transport equipment and in mineral fuels. Only the import value of manufactured goods and chemical products was lower.

In 2017, Bonaire’s exports grew by 25 percent to 11 million US dollars; the export value of raw materials rose most notably, to 3.5 million US dollars. In 2016, higher export values were mainly seen in the salt trade.

Sources

Caribisch Nederland; in-, uitvoerwaarde en handelssaldo per eiland

Nederlands: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/nl/dataset/82658ned

Engels: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/en/dataset/82658eng

Caribisch Nederland, Bonaire; in-, uitvoerwaarde en handelssaldo, SITC

Nederlands: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/nl/dataset/82659ned

Engels: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/en/dataset/82659eng

Relevant links

Customized tabel – Goods imports from Venezuela

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30 refugees in the Netherlands have jihadi watch list passports: NRC

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Around 30 people who applied for asylum in 2015 and 2016 had passports which were flagged as possibly belonging to jihadis but none were found to be a danger to national security, the justice ministry had told the NRC.

The paper says IS and other jihadi groups have stolen thousands of blank passports during their campaigns in Syrian cities and the serial numbers of the passports are now on a European watch list.

The NRC says asylum seekers have given various explanations for how they obtained the passports, usually saying they came via family members. ‘Police and the AIVD security service have not found any evidence that these asylum seekers are active in jihadi groups or form a danger,’ the paper said.

Four of the people involved in the Paris attacks in November 2015 had entered Greece on such passports, the paper said. Two were picked up because they did not know enough about the cities where their passports had been issued but the other two were able to travel on to the French capital, where they blew themselves up.

‘This shows that IS is using the documents to get its fighters into Europe,’ said Leiden University’s terrorism expert Jelle van Buuren. ‘But at the same time, it is such chaos in Syria that the passports could have easily ended up with someone else.’

Meanwhile, two Dutch jihadi suspects have been arrested at Schiphol airport after first reporting to the Dutch consulate in Istanbul. The two, who left for Syria in 2015, will appear in court later on Monday for a remand hearing. They are already being tried in absentia. (DutchNews)

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Netherlands to hire at least 750 extra customs officers for Brexit

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government is recruiting up to 900 extra customs officers to strengthen border controls after Brexit. Junior finance minister Menno Snel said adverts would be placed this week so that the new border guards are trained and ready to start work when the UK leaves the European Union in March next year.

Snel said between 750 and 930 more officers would be needed for a force that currently numbers around 5,000. The extra staff will be mainly required to check goods exports heading to and from the UK after trade restrictions are reintroduced.

‘It’s down to us to make sure that we are as well prepared as possible for the new situation [after Brexit] and that is especially the case for our customs operations,’ Snel told BNR.

Last month Anne Mulder, a VVD MP charged with assessing Brexit from the Dutch perspective, urged the government not to delay plans to increase its border control capacity.

The number of export declarations is expected to leap by a third to more than 16 million in the year after Britain leaves the EU. ‘We can’t wait until there’s a deal, because you can’t train all those people in one week,’ Mulder told NRC.

Tourists and business travellers are unlikely to be affected as the UK is not part of the Schengen area, so border checks are already in place.

Border controls

Meanwhile, the military police, who carry out passport checks at the Dutch borders, are recruiting 417 unarmed civilians and reservists for airport controls, the Financieele Dagblad said at the weekend.

The measure is intended to reduce the pressure on the border control service and shorten waiting times at airports during peak periods.

The new border staff be trained for four weeks (consisting of 80 hours of self-study and eight ‘contract moments’), followed by a three-month internship. It is a pilot project and a follow-up to an earlier experiment with unarmed reservists last year. (DutchNews)

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New firefighters receiving training via new system

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS - On January 28th, the Caribbean Netherlands Fire Department (BKCN) started with the training of 12 new colleagues; three from Saba, two from St. Eustatius and seven from Bonaire.

The participants will be trained for Fireman-A. They will learn about fire control, technical aid and accidents involving dangerous substances. Additionally in November the training for airplane airport firefighting must be successfully completed after which the new colleagues can be used within BKCN.

The training no longer uses books but takes place through the electronic learning environment (ELO). The theory is learned via the computer and internet on the basis of films, animations, short texts, spoken stories and quizzes to check if the content is understood.

During practice sessions the theory is translated to practice through blended learning. Many different forms of work are applied to prepare the participants as well as possible to combat a real fire. Also, participants independently execute assignments to better understand the profession of fireman and the organization.

Per component progress interviews and intermediate tests are held to monitor the progress of participants, the modules are concluded with a practical exam.

The training is provided by in house BCN instructors led by Julius Melaan, head of training department at BKCN. BKCN is supported from a distance by the fire department training institution BOGO in The Netherlands.

For the medical components there is support from Fundashon Mariadal and during the exams from St. Maarten Fire Department.

In addition to the technical and substantive part of the training, time is also spent on sports and swimming skills. The participants also undergo a medical examination, an intensive fire-oriented sports test and should have their swimming certificate in order to ultimately be able to work at BKCN.

The in-service training and training require a great deal from BKCN and its employees. However, due to these investments BKCN remains up to date with the training of firefighters and remains affiliated training developments of the fire brigade in The Netherlands.

Well trained fire personnel contribute to the safety of the residents of Caribbean Netherlands and that is ultimately what BKCN strives for. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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USP Valya challenges government to establish vendor market on ring road

PHILIPSBURG - In line with her vision to promote small business development, at the public meeting of February 17th, 2018, of the United St. Maarten Party (USP), Valya Lake-Pantophlet challenged government to promote entrepreneurship and assist the people of St. Maarten by creating a vendors market for the sale of food, crafts, cultural items etc, on the ring road in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

"The ring road has been standing and cannot be completed any time soon. It's a shame, and it is time we give entrepreneurs a fighting chance by giving them opportunities to establish themselves in this country.

“With micro loans that are available from Qredits St. Maarten - St. Eustatius - Saba this can happen in the shortest of time. Government needs to take its role as facilitator seriously and pave the way for this economy to bounce back by empowering the people", Mrs. Lake-Pantophlet said.

Valya Lake- Pantophlet is candidate number 5 contesting in the upcoming snap elections on February 26th 2018, with the United St. Maarten Party (USP) under the slogan "The Face Of Change" and this is the change in thinking that she wishes to bring to parliament.

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Stayover visitor expenditure hits US$37 billion. But is that enough? Is our work now over? Not by a long way.

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - In short, despite the severe challenges of 2017, more visitors arrived in the Caribbean, and they spent more, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Secretary General (SG) Hugh Riley said recently. “But is that enough? Is our work now over? Not by a long way.

“The Caribbean, with our highly competitive tourism product, has quite some distance to go in order to realize our full potential. We’ll say more about that in a minute. But first: Coming up in the weeks and months ahead are occasions when the CTO will be sharing with the public and with industry stakeholders, more and more details on the plans to better capitalize on the opportunities that are available to the Caribbean.”

“MARCH 21 & 22, there’s the Organization of American States Ministerial Congress in Georgetown, under the leadership of the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Business, in Guyana.

“The Congress will assemble policy-makers and industry executives to propose strategies for bringing the countries of the Americas closer, in the pursuit of sustainable tourism. All Ministers of Tourism in the Americas are invited to attend.

“Caribbean Week in New York 2018 – June 2-8, an annual CTO event, showcasing the diversity of the Caribbean in one of the region’s major source markets, New York City. The week starts with a Caribbean Travel Fair on June 2 and ends with the exciting Rum and Rhythm event on June 8. The spire of the Empire State Building is lit with the colors of the Caribbean. Later that month there’s Rum and Rhythm Toronto: Billed as The Ultimate Caribbean Epicurean Experience – June 23, Toronto, Canada.

“The CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference is October 23-26, at The Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, The Bahamas. This year’s theme is: Rejuvenate, Recreate, Reconnect; New Directions for Caribbean Tourism.

“As you will be aware, 2018 is the Year of Rejuvenation in the Caribbean, and so, many of our CTO member-countries have embarked on programs that connect to the multi-billion dollar rejuvenation, spa and wellness industry.

“The following month, November, the CTO’s Human Resource Conference will be in The Cayman Islands. Building a Resilient Caribbean Tourism Workforce for Global Competitiveness is the theme. In fact, Human Capital Development is one of our seven strategic areas of focus for the region this year.

“We urge you to keep visiting OneCaribbean.org for details. Don’t be left out of these important opportunities to hear from the industry, to challenge the experts, and to let your opinions be heard on the direction for Caribbean tourism. Two weeks ago at meetings in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the CTO’s Board of Directors accepted our Strategic Plan for 2018-2022; and with that decisive action, the Board approved seven Strategic Functional Areas, and reinforced the CTO’s mandate to Position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year-round warm weather destination.

“But if that really is to happen, we cannot simply stop at the results we reported to you today. As a region, we must acknowledge that to rebuild, develop and sustain the infrastructure and the image of the Caribbean, is an immense task. Resources will need to be developed, and realistic attention will need to be paid to the length of time it takes to rebuild an economy and repair a brand seriously affected by natural disasters.

“Reinforcing the value and the attributes of the Caribbean brand, educating the public and the travel industry on the geography of the Caribbean, and generating demand for the region’s tourism product will take time, careful strategy, and money. In other words, establishing leadership of the Caribbean Brand requires more than just sparsely funded, ad hoc efforts.

“Our first order of business as a region is to stop treating tourism as some sort of casual pursuit. Tourism is a serious business. It employs, directly and indirectly, 13.7% of the people in the Caribbean, and it contributes, in total, from 7% to over 80% to Gross Domestic Product across the region.

“Tourism is the business that delivers foreign exchange every time a plane lands and a cruise ship docks. It reduces unemployment and delivers massive amounts of tax dollars to our national treasuries.

“Therefore, we should worry when we’re not using this job creating, tax-generating, foreign exchange earning machine to its full potential. We should worry when the rate of occupancy across the region is still below 70%; which means: Of every hundred rooms available in the Caribbean, on average, at least 30 are going empty every night. This tells us that we have an opportunity – indeed a responsibility – to market ourselves more effectively, to improve the quality of our service substantially, to enhance the value of our product significantly, and to fill those empty rooms.

“Until we do those things, we are not capitalizing on the substantial investment we have already made to build the plant in the first place, and we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to further erosion of our competitive position.

“When we talk about truly engaging our region’s population in the business of tourism, our countries must institute the Tourism Satellite Account systems that allow us to follow the tourism dollar through the economy, so that we can help our countries to truly understand the number of visitors it takes to outfit a school with computers, or a hospital with the latest equipment. Yes, this business can truly be the lifeblood of the Caribbean. But we have to treat it more seriously.

“To be clear, we are thankful for the results which the region achieved in 2017; we have to celebrate our victories, and we do; but unfortunately, there are bigger celebrations occurring in the places that are stealing our market share. Their unemployment rates are falling, their economies are growing; their tourism product gets consistent visibility, and we must get to that point too.

“The Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), are working hand in hand with other industry partners, to implement a plan that will address these issues.

“The funding for a short-term Caribbean regional marketing campaign is starting to come in, and the arrangements are in place to tell the world we are serious about using our God-given assets to put our region’s economy in the position of strength where it belongs. In this highly competitive business we have to keep fighting, and we have to win,” CTO SG Hugh Riley concludes.

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Jack Monsanto Condolence Register Open until Thursday

PHILIPSBURG - Friends and colleagues shared their thoughts and memories of the late Jacques "Jack" Monsanto by signing and/or leaving a short message in the condolence register that has been opened at the Department of Immigration and Naturalization on A. Th. Illidge road where he was employed.

Jack, as he was fondly known, is remembered for his jovial spirit and wacky sense of humor.

He passed away in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a week ago, and leaves to mourn his family and many friends.

The condolence register is open to the public until Thursday February 22. Anyone who would like to sign the register or leave a condolence message about are welcomed to do so.

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Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin has confidence in legal process

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS - The news of the arrest of Member of Parliament Frans Richardson has the attention of Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin according to a press release from the Cabinet of the Prime Minister on Thursday.

The Prime Minister stated in her statement: “It is regrettable that as a young country we find ourselves in this situation once again, where the integrity of the highest body (Parliament) is being tested.

“However I have confidence in our Country’s legal system and am convinced that the truth will eventually emerge from the investigations by the Justice Department”.

The Prime Minister urges persons in the community not to rush to judgement, as this case is still under investigation. “As Prime Minister I stand for the rule of law and I believe the legal process must run its course,” she said while on her working visit to the Netherlands and Belgium.

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