[KINGSTON, Jamaica] – While many Jamaicans readily think remittances when they hear the term ‘Diaspora,’ the contribution of Jamaicans overseas extends over numerous areas. One of the areas in which the contribution has been significant has been to the health sector. It has become more evident during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
At present, there are almost as many Jamaicans who reside abroad as those who live on the island’s shores. These persons, referred to as, “the Jamaican Diaspora,” are said to number approximately 3 million globally, according to data from the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI). These Jamaicans live mainly in the United States of America (USA), Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) and The Cayman Islands. CAPRI notes that the Diaspora’s value to the Jamaican economy represented some US$4 billion, according to 2017 estimates.
Diaspora Organization Support
In 2021, Dr Allan Cunningham, Southern USA Representative of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, noted that the Jamaican Diaspora is playing a significant role in assisting the country during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 Pandemic has been paramount in the minds of members of the Diaspora, since early 2020,” he said. “We realised from early what was at stake and reached out to the vast Diaspora community for assistance.”
He added that the different regions and organisations within the United States came together to assist, through various initiatives.
“One of the more significant initiatives led to a collaboration with the American Friends of Jamaica; The Miami Consul General, Oliver Mair; Jamaican Men of Florida; JADIAS and Supa Jamz Radio, to name a few,” he revealed.
“Several containers were shipped off with much needed medical equipment, resulting in Jamaica getting rave reviews for the country’s response to the pandemic. Most importantly, we assisted the Consulate to provide support for persons stranded in hotels, and cruise ship workers confined to cruise ships, here in South Florida, until they were safely sent home,” he added.
Diaspora Conference 2022
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his remarks at the launch of the Diaspora Conference for 2022, noted that the Jamaican Diaspora played an important role in several areas, including health, which came to the fore when the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020.
“As they have always done, fueled by their generosity of spirit and concern for their homeland, over the past two years of uncertainty and hitherto, they have given us great support. They have assisted us to confront our challenges. Their donation of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies assisted our efforts to combat the pandemic significantly; and of course, they continue to support us in education, in health,” the prime minister stated.
Increased Diaspora Support
Hugh Reid, general manager, JN Life Insurance, affirmed that the Jamaican Diaspora continues to play a pivotal role in Jamaica’s health sector, and he looks forward to their increased support in other areas.
“Over the years, the Diaspora has provided support to Jamaica’s health sector through various missions, which visit the island annually to treat various illnesses, perform surgical procedures and provide other support. We are grateful for this contribution, because it also presents an opportunity for some of our local doctors and nurses to learn new procedures and new treatment methods,” he stated.
“We look forward to the continued support of the Diaspora in providing assistance in areas such as treatment of injuries from burns, rare diseases and developing trends in treating lifestyle diseases, because these areas will help to further improve our health sector,” he added.
Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, also hailed the impact that the Jamaican Diaspora has had on the sector over the years.
“The Diaspora continues to provide invaluable support to Jamaica’s health sector, through various health missions and donations to our hospitals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Diaspora came to our aid by providing various equipment to assist in our fight against coronavirus and for that we are grateful.
Dr Tufton added that steps were currently being taken to ensure that Diaspora members who want to give back, in terms of health, will have a smoother process to provide this service.
“We are currently working to ensure that those who are in the field of health, who return annually to give back via medical missions, will be able to do so seamlessly. It is our aim to ensure that we remove the current obstacles to ensure that members of the Diaspora can aid our country and our people, when they have the desire to do so,” he said.