“COME & BE HEALED”
With a population of 260,000, 32 doctors* and a shortage of nurses, access to primary healthcare remains a formidable challenge for the majority of ni-Vans living in the outlying areas of Vanuatu. Other hurdles slowing down access to quality primary healthcare are the cost of training, the lack of proper training facilities and personnel, and the problem of transport across 83 different islands, many of which are geographically isolated from the urban centres.
The majority of Vanuatu’s doctors are permanently based at 2 regional referral hospitals and 3 provincial hospitals. This, combined with the shortage of nurses, dentists and eye-care specialists, means that a substantial portion of primary health care delivery to remote areas is still being catered for by overseas medical personnel working as volunteers. Some groups return on a regular basis, either focusing on a single catchment area or rotating through different locations on subsequent visits. Others provide financial support in the form of overseas courses and placement programmes in a bid to help selected ni-Van health workers improve their skills. With a broad range of health aid currently being driven by the government’s development partners, local and overseas NGOs and churches, as well as individual volunteers, we want to ensure that our involvement at grassroots level will build on what has already been established.
We have been fortunate to have had a number of highly qualified and motivated doctors and nurses, dentists and dental therapists, work with us over the years. Some return each year and return to clinics and hospitals where they have forged relationships with the local communities. This is particularly so at Lamap and the offshore islands of southeast Malekula, and at Norsup Hospital in north Malekula. Our medical personnel have engaged in both clinical work and training and mentoring of local health practitioners.
As a result of the feedback we have received from all quarters, including our overseas practitioners, local practitioners and local communities, we have determined we can be most effective by increasing local community health knowledge. We are therefore concentrating on assisting local health educators become more proficient at teaching local communities about basic public health awareness eg. washing hands, healthy nutrition, and basic wound care.
*2010 figure as sourced from Vanuatu’s Annual Development Report