The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) conducted for the first time a five-day Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) integrated surveillance survey training that commenced on Monday 11, and will conclude on Friday 15 September.
Permanent Secretary, Mrs. McNeil, in delivering the keynote address strongly highlighted that the Health Ministry is committed to strengthening national efforts in public health and creating enabling activities within the country, the provinces, and out in our communities.
She highlighted the NTD journey started in the country in 2011, with trachoma as the area of focus. In 2015, following the rollout of related activities on scabies, WHO made the recognition of establishing NTD as a key public health program, but understandably, the programme was stalled for a couple more years due to a lack of HR capacity to progress and move the programme forward.
“It was not until 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, and despite all the challenges that came with responding to the pandemic, that the NTD finally got revitalized with the entrance of new partners notably the Murdoch Children Research Institution of the University of Melbourne and Kirby Institution of the University of New South Wales, and Fred Hollows Foundation.
With renewed energy and commitment, and in less than 2 years, the NTD program has made some remarkable achievements and demonstrated its excellent value for money by bringing better health to many of our people, our children, and women in this country through the NTD program. Between 2022 and now, we have managed to undertake the MDA rollout, benefiting an increased number of our people in the Provinces including Honiara.
“The Ministry is committed to this the NTD program, and in demonstrating this commitment, the MHMS senior executive endorsed the request for the establishment of the NTD Unit. Work on this establishment is still an ongoing exercise between the Ministry and the Ministry of Public Service”, said Mrs. McNeil.
Mrs. McNeil then thanked all partners for their support towards the NTD program: DFAT as the major financier, and the implementing partners of theFred Hollows Foundation (FHF), World Scabies Program (WSP) through MCRI, and the Kirby Institute of UNSW for all their invaluable contributions and technical expertise towards the ongoing NTD activities in research, training, and other NTD related interventions.
“Without you all, we may not have reached this key historical milestone”, said Mrs. McNeil.
The aspiration of the MHMS and as aligned to the NSHP is to increase health services and coverage including the elimination of NTDs in Solomon Islands. To achieve this though, thisrequires national and sectoral commitment, essential medicines, financial resources, technical guidance, and above all, leadership at the national and provincial level.
“But before we walk this journey towards elimination, we need robust, high-quality data to that will guide and inform NTD policy, strategic directions, quality programming, planning and budgeting for implementation.
“I am looking at our participants in this training who will be out there in the field to conduct the survey. Your task will not be an easy one as you will travel in rough seas, climb up the rugged mountains of the provinces, and be away from families and friends during the duration of the survey exercise. But despite all these, the onus is on you, and a lot is expected of you to deliver this survey in order to obtain the hard data and information that is required to inform, help, and shape the NTD program going forward”, said Mrs. McNeil.
The Permanent Secretary also encouraged the participants to work closely with those on the ground in the communities with village chiefs and elders, church leaders, men and women, young people and children who will support your work on the ground.
She congratulated the participants for taking up the challenges and making good use of this training opportunity.
“As young nurses and public health graduates, I encourage you to make good use of this once-in-a lifetime opportunity and build on the knowledge you will gain during the course of this training. See this as an opportunity to enhance your capacity, an opportunity to help shape your professional growth and development going forward”, said Mrs. McNeil.
Meanwhile, other guest speakers have also rendered their full support for the NTD Integrated Surveillance Survey Training.