Photo: World Vision Vanuatu

Each year on April 7, the Ministry of Health (MOH) joins all other UN member countries to commemorate the World Health Day.

This year‘s theme was “building a fairer, healthier world for everyone”. As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others — entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age.

Since March 2020, the MOH’s main priority has been to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Supported by health development partners including the Australian Government through the Vanuatu Health Program (VHP), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, the Ministry of Health’s efforts have been successful.

So far, Vanuatu remains one of few countries around the world with no COVID-19 case in the community. Only three cases were detected in and by an effective quarantine system.

“I commend the efforts made by the Ministry of Health to lead and coordinate with health stakeholders a successful response that keeps Vanuatu communities free from COVID-19. I also acknowledge the strong contributions of our health staff. Our capacity to respond to COVID-19 is key to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in Vanuatu,” said Minister of Health, Silas Bule.

“On World Health Day, I would like also to acknowledge the strong contribution and dedication of our health workforce especially those based in rural areas for providing health services to our people,” Minister Bule continued.

While COVID-19 is putting pressure on the health workforce the Ministry of Health continues to progress other priorities.

An overview from the Director General from the Ministry, Russel Tamata highlighted few achievements from last year “The graduation of the first fourteen Bachelor of Nursing graduates from Vanuatu College of Nursing Education (VCNE) along with forty-two diploma graduates”.

He also mentioned that VCNE curriculum will soon be tabled to the Vanuatu Qualification Authority for the approval prior to escalating the college into the newly established National University of Vanuatu.

Acknowledging that the Vanuatu Health system is complex, with added constraints from the natural disasters and COVID-19, existing geo-graphical barriers and infrastructures limitations.

The MOH is making progress in achieving the standards of Role Delineation policy.

While the nine-year Health Sector Strategy 2021-2030 is being developed, implementations begin for the relevant policies such as the workshop plan, the clinical services plan and the national referral policy.

The Australian Government through the Vanuatu Health Program along with the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and other development partners continue to provide needed assistance to the Ministry of Health to deliver annual plan and improved health services to the communities across the country.

The collaboration displayed by health stakeholders is a true reflection of the Ministry’s efforts of achieving objective 3 of the People’s Plan which states, “a healthy population that enjoys a high quality of physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being”.

Globally, COVID-19 has hit all countries hard, but its impact has been harshest on those communities which were already vulnerable, who are more exposed to the disease, less likely to have access to quality health care services and more likely to experience adverse consequences as a result of measures implemented to contain the pandemic.