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T&T crying out for intervention

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We need a public health intervention for what has gone on here far too long as an issue without leadership. I acknowledge that there have been small pockets of efforts but for the most part we behave as though somehow, someday, violence will resolve itself.

And in the midst of a week of marked brutality, while we Tweeted and paraded our world ranking as the happiest country in the region, that standing was juxtaposed against the deadliest 18-hour period for murders in 2018.

I know we need something to keep some positivity in our circumstances – only last week I set out to speak on happiness and improving our wellbeing. But the violence here threatens to obliterate all peace – security having fled a long time ago – while we almost senselessly praise our happiness ranking. We do so, I believe, seemingly in a vanity that wants to forget the rumpus of our day-to-day existence.

It is important to look at how we are ranked in other areas beyond that of happiness on the global life expectancy profiles.

The current stats have life expectancy in T&T at an average of 71.2 years. For reference, if you lived in Cuba your life expectancy is 79.1, Jamaica, 76.2, and Barbados 75.5. Only Guyana (66.2) and Haiti (63.5) have lower life expectancy than T&T in this region (WHO/UNESCO).

Life expectancy takes a number of things into consideration. Calculations are impacted by where a country stands on various measurable (and measured) social, health, and public health issues, among other criteria.

The possibility that you can die of any condition is expressed by ranking countries according to highest susceptibility. That said, here are some current stats:-

Coronary Heart disease – T&T ranks 42 globally; second in the region

Diabetes Mellitus – T&T ranks 4th globally; second in the region

Suicide – T&T ranks 41st globally; and third in the region behind Guyana and Suriname

Violence – T&T ranks 4th globally, after El Salvador, Guatemala, and Venezuela.

This violence of which the latter speaks is not just domestic abuse of women – the most commonly counted. It speaks to interpersonal violence – violence against women, and violence against men as partners in relationships; violence against neighbours, children, parents, and the elderly; gun and gang violence.

In any form and fashion, T&T is the fourth most likely place in the whole wide world where anyone of us could die from a violent act. Let that sink in for a moment.

We are a violent society. And often, those who have some degree of protection and who mostly remain unscathed do not give sufficient thought to the problem on the whole. It’s that adage that goes “until it reach your doorstep” that comes to mind.

As we boast of our “happiness,” I walk the streets here wondering which happy Trini may decide to grab my bag. I’m in a maxi taxi at times wondering which happy Trini might declare a hold up. And it is not that I walk fearful, but I am careful and discomfited by the elements of violence and evil that seem to be everywhere.

Look, I live here and can attest to this being a lovely place but I am no longer tempted to compare it with anywhere else because it keeps angrily turning on itself. And frankly, it is frightening that government after government remains clueless and inaudible about the murderous state and T&T’s continuous decline.

I often wonder if our elected leaders are waiting along with my religious friends for a “miracle” to curb the volatility and reign in the cruelty meted out every morning.

I would like to write about the Happiness Index but this thing too real and every person’s wellbeing is under threat. Daily news is always of physical violence, sexual violence, economic violence, psychological violence and it matters not which sector you peer into, the tranquillity is gone, rubbished by rudderlessness among the young and the old.

Last Saturday I woke up to a WhatsApp video of a man who broke down in tears counting the violence institutions perpetrate on us, he having felt that the courts failed him in his reporting of alleged abuse against him by a woman. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the situation but I am aware of many who feel violated by our systems, which are meant to protect us – Sobo Village is writing its own sad story.

This place is crying out for interventions to reduce violence. The blood runs thick; the pain cuts deep while we still are debating which “hand is the left one.”

– Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media professional and a public health practitioner. She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and is a Master of Public Health With Distinction (The UWI). Write to: [email protected]


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