JA$50 Million Fund Earmarked to Provide Support for Families affected by Microcephaly linked to Zika

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Health will establish a fund of JA$50 million to support interventions for families and babies born with microcephaly.

  • This fund is a preemptive measure for the potential microcephaly births that may be recorded as a result of Zika.

The Ministry of Health will establish a fund of JA$50 million to support interventions for families and babies born with microcephaly. The fund will assist in carrying out activities that include support for high-risk clinics and psychosocial interventions. The initiative stems from the concern about the impact of children born with microcephaly and other neurological disorders.

Minister of Health Dr. the Honourable Christopher Tufton said “this fund will go towards preparing High Risk Clinics and Special Cares Nurseries, and the provision of special drugs.” “The fund will also be used to support home visits, early stimulation and psycho-social counselling and support,” Minister Tufton said.

The Ministry of Health has also identified an Expert Group to look at recommendations to address the support that will be required for children born with birth defects associated with Zika. This group consists of a Neuro Psychologist, Paediatirc Psychologist, Child Psychiatrist, Paediatric Neurologist, Behavioral Paediatrician, Paediatrician and an Early Childhood Education Specialist which is chaired by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De la Haye.

Jamaica recorded its first confirmed case of Zika on January 29, 2016. This fund is a preemptive measure for the potential microcephaly births that may be recorded as a result of Zika. To date thirty-five (35) pregnant women have tested positive for Zika with five hundred and one (501) cases classified as suspected Zika in pregnancy.

Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with small heads, as well as Guillan Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder resulting in weakness of various muscle groups. The Ministry of Health continues to urge pregnant women to take precautions and avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by wearing light long sleeved clothing; using repellant with DEET; and mesh covering on doors and windows.