BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 21, Barbados has bestowed the Humanitarian Award on the outgoing Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne, for her sterling contribution in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Humanitarian Award is an initiative of the Barbados government that recognizes the sacrifice made by frontline workers during the pandemic.
The first Humanitarian Awards were held in April 2022, and at the second Humanitarian Awards, the Dominican-born Dr. Etienne received the Honorary Freedom of Barbados Award for the exemplary service provided to Barbados throughout the ongoing pandemic that has killed and infected millions around the world.
“I wish sincerely to thank the people and the Government of Barbados for the honor and privilege of being decorated with this prestigious award. I am grateful for the recognition but even more so for the opportunity to have served your Government and you, the people of Barbados,” Dr. Etienne told the ceremony that was held at the Kensington Oval on the outskirts of the capital.
Among the awards distributed were the Humanitarian Medals, which were conferred on frontline workers who, despite the obvious risk to their own safety, persevered to ensure that the public could still have their basic needs met.
Humanitarian lapel pins were presented to those who worked in supporting roles on the front line and who played their part in reducing the impact of the virus. The final category of awardees received Humanitarian plaques as an expression of appreciation for their generous donations to lessen the impact of COVID-19.
Dr. Etienne, who received the award “for her leadership team and friendship to Barbados during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic”, pointed to women who had to mother, care for family members and still find food even as they were experiencing increasing physical and mental abuse at home.
She also lauded the “leadership, vision, and determination” of Prime Minister Mia Mottley for her role at home and within the region during the “early dark days of COVID-19.
“You have served admirably in one of the worst periods in the history of public health. We celebrate you today. We celebrate your resolve, your commitment to serve others, and your sheer determination to get the job done, no matter what,” she said.
“You came face to face with death and dying, some of them your loved ones, your friends, and families. You yourself suffered anxiety, fear, unresolved grief, depression, burnout, and mental ill-health. Daily you had to face your own vulnerability, yet you woke up each day, dressed, and presented yourself to serve others in the service of humanity and commitment to your fellow man.
“You repeatedly sought the advice of our experts and acted boldly while respecting the science and international norms and standards,” she said of the leader who became her “midnight friend” during late-night phone calls and consultations.
Etienne said, “If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we are better together and that we are only safe when the weakest among us is also safe. Let us, therefore, go forth in solidarity, love and service to each other”.