Contributing to “reaching the unreached” agenda at the WHO 73rd Western Pacific Region Committee Meeting last week, Health Minister Hon. Dr. Culwick Togamana highlighted that the need to reach the unreached in the Solomon Islands is an ongoing challenge for the government and the Ministry of Health.
Dr Togamana explained that scattered islands, growing population and consequently increasing demand for better health care services are amongst the many contributing factors to these challenges.
“ Moreover we still have large communities living in remote islands where there are no airports, and where ships would normally reach them only 3 to 6 times in a year. This makes the provision of health care and delivery of goods and social services challenging, let alone the high cost”, explained Dr Togamana
The Health Minister said that the Solomon Islands noted in the draft Regional Framework for Reaching the Unreached in the Western Pacific (2022-2030) some of the reasons why certain proportion of the population may be unreached and the issues that could exacerbate or help mitigate the risks.
Referring to restrictions of movements for months as part of preventing spread of COVID-19 in the communities, Dr Togamana highlighted that these public health interventions though with good intentions can also affect people of low socio-economic status, children, people with chronic diseases and those with physical disabilities from accessing basic health care services
He explained that the pandemic has also demonstrated that misinformation or lack of disseminating correct information can also prevent certain population groups from accessing effective public health interventions.
“For instance, our COVID-19 vaccination rate for the target population on two doses is still below 60% and this is largely due to misinformation circulated by influential individuals and those in leadership positions and positions of influence”, stated Dr. Togamana.
The Health Minister said that despite these challenges, Solomon Islands remains committed to maintaining a free health care policy for its citizens despite the growing cost of service delivery. This policy he described is a key safety net for access to essential health services for the majority of Solomon Islanders who are still depending on the informal sector for their livelihood.