Progressing in partnership: Guyana's health preparedness win

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Progressing in partnership: Guyana's health preparedness win The recently approved Country Partnership Framework between the World Bank and the Government of Guyana emphasizes strengthening public health preparedness with a focus on the One Health approach. Photo: World Bank. National Infectious Diseases Hospital at Liliendaal - Guyana.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, but in Guyana, it sparked a remarkable journey of resilience and innovation. Guyana, through a dynamic partnership between the World Bank, Guyana’s Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Finance, not only tackled the immediate crisis but also paved the way for long-term health security in the country.

The partnership resulted in the creation of the Guyana COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, embraced by the United Nations System – the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – as well as other development partners such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the World Organization for Animal Health.

Fast forward to March 2024, the project successfully concluded and achieved its objective to prevent, detect, and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness in Guyana, leaving a legacy of achievements that have positioned Guyana as a leader in health preparedness and the One Health initiative. 

We would like to highlight three aspects of the project that made it successful and can be used as a reference for other countries and regions to advance their health agendas:

  • Flexibility and Adaptation: The project's ability to adapt to the evolving needs of the country was crucial. It expanded and decentralized diagnostic and critical care capacity, procured COVID-19 vaccines, and increased cold storage facilities. This flexibility was not just a response to immediate needs but also a strategic move to strengthen the system for public health preparedness.
  • Investing in the Future: By strengthening health systems, Guyana broke the cycle of panic and neglect by investing in long-term health infrastructure. The expansion of laboratory capacity and the integration of digital technology modernized the healthcare system, allowing for faster and better access to specialized diagnostics. Training for nurses and other professionals, such as respiratory therapists, was promoted, marking a milestone in healthcare modernization in Guyana and the Caribbean.
  • Catalyzing Change: The project served as a catalyst for Guyana's remarkable progress in adopting the One Health agenda, marking a change in managing risks at the human-animal-environment interface. This shift in mindset involved technical lead agencies and built partnerships for long-term collaboration, setting Guyana apart as a leader in this approach in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Beyond COVID-19, Guyana is on path to regional leadership. Its trajectory toward becoming a regional leader in One Health is eminent. Participation in regional initiatives, training, and a seat at the Pandemic Fund Governing Board highlight Guyana’s commitment to knowledge sharing and international collaboration. 

One Health: A Catalyst for Change

The recently approved Country Partnership Framework between the World Bank and the Government of Guyana emphasizes strengthening public health preparedness with a focus on the One Health approach. This strategic alignment signals the recognition of actors beyond the Ministry of Health that sustainable financing for health security is essential for long-term success and for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

United Nations agencies, including PAHO/WHO and FAO are all aligned in recognizing that Guyana’s reinforced commitment to One Health, builds on its past achievements and will sustain progress towards the goal of the elimination of preventable diseases, at a crucial time in the country’s development trajectory and in keeping with Guyana’s SDG promise. Indeed, the application of a One Health approach is critical for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for achieving the related SDGs. 

While cost-effective strategic investments in health systems, particularly in primary health care, remain crucial for attaining Universal Health Coverage, they are not enough to ensure the country is prepared for the next emergency, which may not come from the health sector. 

The One Health approach promotes improved coordination and collaboration across sectors, shifting from disease-specific programs to broader system-strengthening initiatives. Having carried out key analytics, such as the Voluntary External Evaluation of International Health Regulations (IHR) capacities and Performance of Veterinary Services Assessment, the country has the evidence base to make informed decisions. The establishment of a National One Health Committee and the finalization of the National Action Plan for Health Security are significant steps towards integrating human, animal, and environmental health considerations into a unified health system which is a milestone towards Guyana’s health security. 

Guyana's successful completion of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Project has set a precedent for an integrated, evidence-based approach to health and pandemics. Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony's acknowledgment of the World Bank's efficient response and flexibility underscores the importance of timely support and adaptability in crisis situations. 

Guyana's journey is an example of how strategic partnerships and a commitment to innovation can transform a country’s health landscape, making it an inspiration and a leader in the One Health initiative within the region.

The Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Umbrella Program (HEPR Program), managed by the World Bank Group, supported this work. 

Angel Bhagmattie Bhojedat and Behnaz Bonyadian contributed to this blog.


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Federica Secci

Senior Health Specialist

Daniel Albrecht

PAHO/WHO Representative (a.i.) in Guyana

Gillian Smith

FAO Representative in Guyana

Yesim Oruc

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guyana

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