This week, a team of nine medics and healthcare professionals are flying to the Solomon Islands to support the country’s COVID-19 response.
Until this year, the Solomon Islands – a pacific country with a population of just over 690,000 – was one of the very few countries in the world to remain relatively free of COVID-19.
At the start of 2022, COVID-19 quickly spread across several regions of the country with a rapid rise in the number of cases and deaths. To date, the number of confirmed cases reported has risen to 8150 with 118 deaths (8th March 2022), however, because there have been issues with testing capacity and there’s a delay with testing data, it’s expected the case numbers could be higher.
The team on behalf of the UK Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT) will be split and support two hospitals in Western Province and Malaita Province. Malaita is home to around 170,000 people – one-third of the total country’s population. 10% of people in Malaita have had two vaccinations and 25% have had one vaccine (as of 8th March 2022).
Our goal is to strengthen (and hopefully increase) the overall capacity of local health facilities and national medical staff.
Even though almost 100% of health staff are vaccinated, hospitals have been short-staffed as many staff have been off sick with COVID-19. Our team will be working to limit healthcare worker infections as well as wider community transmission by reinforcing IPC measures and delivering training sessions.
Like in many places around the world, there is significant stigma around COVID-19, and there are stories of people catching, suffering, and dying from the virus without seeking medical help. We’ll be working with both clinical staff and members in the wider community to learn existing COVID-19 perceptions, before building RCCE response plans and working with key community stakeholders to share messages.
Feature image: Half the team will be working in the Malaita Province. Pictured: A busy main street in the town of Auki, the capital of Malaita (Dec 2016). Credit: Sam Lawrence
We’re grateful to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for UK Aid funding from the British people to fund this important response.
“The UK EMT is honoured to be able to respond to this support for the Solomon Islands. It is my hope that we make a difference though training and mentorship in the provinces, and that this brings better access and quality health care closer to the people.”
– Eunice, Team Lead