Port Vila, 29 May 2020 – Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health acknowledges support from its Pacific partners including the Government of Australia towards its preparedness and response actions to the concurrent emergencies facing the country, the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Tropical Cyclone Harold.
“The support to the health sector in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Tropical Cyclone Harold is possible in part through a longstanding partnership between the Ministry of Health and the Government of Australia”, stated Dr. Posikai Samuel, Acting Director Curative Services.
Recent COVID-19 activities supported by the Government of Australia include ensuring Vanuatu has in-country capacity to test for COVID-19 by procuring and delivering essential test cartridges with other development partners. Over 10 in-country medical staff (including doctors and an epidemiologist) working at the Vila and Northern Provincial Hospital and other clinical settings are made possible by funds from the Australian Government.
Director Samuel stated, “The support from the Australian Government is part of a decade long partnership to assist the Ministry of Health with its overarching goal of protecting and promoting the health of all people in Vanuatu”.
In the immediate aftermath of TC Harold that hit the northern part of Vanuatu between 6 and 7 April, the Australian Government immediately supported deployment of Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) to cyclone-affected areas. As of May 11, 32 teams have been deployed seeing over 4,886 patients.
“Our provincial health teams on the ground have provided good feedback on the support and work of the emergency medical teams to bring much needed relief to an already stretched health system as well as to the patients who were assisted,” said Director Samuel.
Included in Australia’s package of support to health’s emergency response is funding upgrades to essential health infrastructure at the Vila Central and Northern Provincial Hospitals. Australia is providing additional support and funding for the repair of medical facilities damaged by TC Harold. In addition, is the provision of essential medical supplies and equipment, such as ultrasounds and portable x-ray machines, personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect front-line health workers, and restocking medical supplies damaged by TC Harold.
“The support from the Government and the people of Australia, who are also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in their own country, but have provided support to Vanuatu and its people is making a difference to the lives of Ni-Vanuatu,” stated Director Samuel.
Support to funding and dissemination of national public health messaging on COVID-19 including on social distancing and hygiene measures, through radio, billboards, SMS, social media and posters is another key area.
More recently Australia pledged more than 1.7 billion vatu to support the Vanuatu’s response to COVID-19 and TC Harold, some of which will support important work within the health sector.