We are writing to announce that the 31st UCEA Convention will not be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2017. This was a difficult decision, and one that the Executive Director and the Executive Committee deliberated on for several months with information and feedback from several sources. As we are all aware, the Zika virus poses a serious health risk. We believe that the risk of either contracting the virus or being a carrier of the virus after the Convention was too great.
This does not minimize our concern for the people of Puerto Rico. As a “commonwealth” of the United States, the federal government legislates many aspects of Puerto Rico, health and environment among them. However, the Center for Disease Control and other government agencies were slow to respond to the developing crisis on the island. In fact, Congress did not pass legislation to provide funding to fight the Zika virus until September 28. Of those $1 billion, only $66 million will go for health care and prevention in Puerto Rico. The remaining $800 million will go to mosquito control and vaccine development and testing on the mainland. We find this inequity in health services and prevention deeply troubling.
We urge our members to contact their Senators and Representatives to be more responsive in providing necessary resources moving forward. The fight against Zika will continue for the foreseeable future and so we must ensure that our legislators stay focused on the health and safety of all our citizens. For those interested in helping more directly, the March of Dimes led the coalition that lobbied the government for increased funding. They have also committed to long-term planning, education, and advocacy in Puerto Rico, as well as to meeting the needs of children born with developmental and physical disabilities as a result of the virus. For more information on the March of Dimes work go to https://www.marchofdimes.org/giving/support-zika-virus-and-pregnancy.aspx?utm_source=toprow3-give-module&utm_medium=MOD-site&utm_campaign=MOD&utm_content=Zika-donation&AmountToGive=50
We will communicate with the membership once we have confirmation on a new Convention site and dates.