Assistant SG of SHEFA Provincial Government Council, Mrs. Liah Kaltoi (left), receiving her first medicine from a demonstration team during yesterday’s launching.

A two-week integrated Mass Drug Administration (MDA) Program for SHEFA Province was launched yesterday by Assistant Secretary General of the SHEFA Provincial Government Council (SPGC), Mrs. Liah Kaltoi.

The launching took place at the SPGC Compound and the MDA operation is set to kick off on Monday, the 8th of May 2023.

During the launching, Mrs. Kaltoi acknowledged the National Government through the Ministry of Health (MOH) for choosing SHEFA Province as a priority to carry out joint health mass campaign activity, which give free health service to the people of SHEFA Province after Tropical Cyclones (TCs) Judy and Kevin.

She stated that the SPGC’s priority is to support the work of the MOH, health partners and other stakeholders that assisting to decrease such disease in Vanuatu.

“Compared to the other five provinces of Vanuatu, SHEFA has a population of more than 100,000. Many people reside in SHEFA Province, and a large number of people come and go from the country via Port Vila, which serves as Vanuatu’s capital,” she said.

“I understand that this health campaign is aim to decrease skin disease such as scabies, yaws, leprosy, intestinal worms and to collect information of the mental health status in the population. Also, to carry out vaccination of children under 5 years and to distribute health messages to the population of SHEFA Province.

“For us to be healthy always, it is important for the people of SHEFA not to miss this opportunity, to receive this free health services that the SHEFA Provincial Health is leading.”

Mrs. Kaltoi is appealing to the community leaders, church leaders, women leaders, youth leaders, Members of Parliament and the population of SHEFA Province to cooperate and participate in the Joint Health Campaign, which is a Free Health Service.

Officer in Charge of Public Health, Nellie Muru Wouloseje, stated this MDA of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is a proactive health approach to prevent and reduce any disease. In SHEFA Province, the activity should have been implemented in 2022 but is not possible.

She continues to state that due to TCs Judy and Kevin, there are many diseases being spread due to the heavy rainfall which cause flooding and the strong winds, which affects the people’s livelihoods.

“To respond to the diseases which comes after a disaster, the MoH with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) uses this opportunity to implement the MDA activity for the NTD as a Public Health Immediate Response to integrate with other Public Health activities as routine immunization, health awareness for Malaria, Leptospirosis, Mental Health, TB and others,” she said.

Mrs. Wouloseje said the reason and purpose of this implementation in SHEFA Province is that SHEFA Province still records a high number of scabies and worm infection. The MOH’s records show that in 2022 alone, SHEFA Province came second after TAFEA with the high number of such diseases, and this MDA activity will reduce transmission of NTD cases.

“The campaign will also to increase the routine immunisation coverage of 5-year- old children. In 2022, the MoH recorded a very low percentage of these age group which taken their vaccination, especially in terms of measles which saw the coverage of 28% in SHEFA,” she said.

“Impacts of TCs Judy and Kevin saw an increase of public awareness on the disease leptospirosis, dengue, diarrhea, mental stress, yaws, scabies, worm infections and malnutrition.”

According to Mrs. Wouloseje, there will be 26 MDA teams and four survey teams during the rollout. There have been awareness activities from the 29th April and this will end on 7th of May, followed by the MDA operation from the 8th to the 22nd of May.

“As the Officer in Charge of Public Health Department, I want to encourage the people of SHEFA Province to see the MDA teams when they come around in your area,” she said. “There will be free treatment for the disease such as yaws, scabies and worms and the only chance for a child under 5 to have his or her full immunisation,” she said.

She added that by working together, standards of living will be boosted and diseases such NTDs will decrease.

The focal person of the NTDs under the WHO, Fasihah Taleo, stated that WHO is doing a great job promoting the integration program of public health, for its effective and efficient way to carry out the work to reach the communities.

“Around the world, we have 23 NTDs, and every country which have those sickness is carrying out the same activity to reach people and remove these diseases in their country,” she said.

“In Vanuatu we have seven of these NTDs. They are: scabies, yaws, worm infection, leprosy, big leg, trachoma and dengue.”

Taleo added the WHO works closely with the MOH to support its plans and provide technical support in the country, regional and global level to promote good health.

“When we encourage one another to take medicine, it is for our personal health as well as the health of our families,” she said. “The diseases only continue when others decline to take medicines that would have enabled us to get rid of the infection at the exact time,” she said.

She congratulated the Government through the MOH for the services they have been providing for the good health of the people of Vanuatu.