KINGSTON, Jamaica, February 8, 2011.- “I have four children and this is where they come for everything- immunizations, check-ups, when they are sick. It is nearby and convenient,” one mother explained to Francoise Clottes, World Bank Director for the Caribbean, at an NGO-operated health clinic in the inner-city community of West Kingston.
On her first official visit to Jamaica (Feb. 2-4), Ms. Clottes witnessed how government and civil society, with support from the World Bank, work together to meet the health, education and training needs of the most vulnerable citizens. She saw all this during a visit to facilities operated by the NGO Operation Friendship. The organisation runs a clinic as well as early childhood, remedial education, and skills training programmes in the West Kingston area. Community residents make good use of the opportunities it provides.
The clinic is run by the NGO, but is staffed by government health care workers. The building housing the health facility was refurbished with Bank funding in 2006, and provides pre- and ante-natal services, as well as well-baby and family planning clinics to community members. Vaccines are provided by the Ministry of Health, while contraceptives are provided by the National Family Planning Board and international development partners such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Mothers attending well-baby clinics come with their Child Health passports – a newly-introduced document that tracks the health and educational development of children from birth to 18 years, which is provided thanks to the Bank’s Early Childhood Development Project.
Some clinic clients are also beneficiaries of the Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), the Bank-supported conditional cash transfer programme, administered by the Government of Jamaica. They explained that benefits from PATH helped them to send their children to school and encourage regular health check-ups.
“They are encouraged to send the children because if they don’t, they know they will not get the benefits,” one woman noted.
Downstairs from the clinic, there is a remedial education school, run in collaboration with the Government-funded Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (the national literacy and adult education programme), and a skills training centre.
Several young men and one young woman showed furniture and metalwork they created as part of the skills training project, supported by a Japan Social Development Fund grant through the World Bank. They are trained in welding, construction, computer literacy, entrepreneurial skills and life skills, including communication and healthy lifestyle choices. Upon completion of the course, trainees will receive nationally recognised certification from the HEART Trust National Training Agency. Project funding to Operation Friendship is administered through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.
“What is important is not just the skills we learn to make a living here but also the skills we learn for life, about how to live as a human being, how to work with others,” a trainee told Ms. Clottes.
An early childhood centre, focusing on children aged 3 to 5, is run by Operation Friendship. The clean, brightly painted school is well on its way to meeting requirements for registration as a government-certified early childhood institution by Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission -one of the Bank’s partners in the Early Childhood Development Project.
Operation Friendship illustrates how national partnerships between government agencies and civil society are enhanced with Bank support, to help poor communities.