Vanuatu Family Health Association (VFHA) in collaboration with the Department of Health have carried out the Minimal Initial Services Package (MISP) response in the islands affected by TC Dona.

VHFA Program Manager, Mrs Julianne Aru who is a midwife by profession said that many times post disaster responses overlooked reproductive health of victims affected.

“This year in light of TC Dona, the Health Cluster has enabled us to carry out the MISP with Reproductive Health in the end of June to the beginning of July, though it was a bit late after the cyclone had passed but it was a success,” she said.

“VFHA dispatched three teams consisting of 6 members in the three provinces affected in TC Dona, which are the Torba, Sanma and Malampa provinces focusing on the Torres islands, Malekula and Santo in the remotest areas.”

Mrs Aru said that during the response, the teams carried out clinical services as well as reproductive health awareness, family planning services, methods and services (teenage pregnancy and STIs).

“MISP should be an urgent activity right after a natural disaster and usually comes with ‘Dignity kits’ to be distributed to families, especially to mothers should they loose everything in the disaster but due to insufficient budget we were not able to hand out these dignity kits this time around,” she said.

“I led a team to the Torres Islands where many mothers do not have access to information on reproductive health and services that can help them plan their families and specifically facilities that can accommodate antenatal and postnatal mothers.”

Mrs Aru reiterated that reproductive health awareness was welcomed by communities in Torres islands and has acknowledged the approval of chiefs to allow women and girls take contraceptive measures to plan and cut down on birth rates.

“Teenage pregnancy rate is very high in Torres islands because they simply have no access to these services due to the remoteness of the islands and mothers faced difficulties in accessing a proper service during their pregnancy to giving birth,” she said.

“There is only one health centre in Loh and women and locals access this by boat and they have to cross really rough seas when they need immediate medical assistance.

“Now here is where their safety comes in question and there is nothing they can do about it-we only need to bring these services to their doorstep but there is lack of human resource.”

Mrs Aru outlined the challenges faced during the excursion and said the geographical location of the five islands in Torres makes it hard for essential service delivery to the communities.

“Transportation is very hard up in the Torres, no vehicles, strong seas between the islands, communication (use of tele-radio) and beliefs of cultural practices is still present and needs thorough awareness of reproductive health to make the people really understand the importance of planning out their family to make life easy,” she said.

“We carry out clinical services for general patients and i have inserted 45 jadelle for young women and mothers to help them recuperate and plan for the future of their families.”

Mrs Aru said the other teams on Santo and Malekula carried out the same services to the people affected in the remotest areas and emphasized the importance of reproductive health as also one important aspect affecting the development of the country.