Solomon Islands tackles neglected diseases with an integrated surveillance survey training program with the intent to carry out nationwide surveys on NTDs.
The Ministry of Health is gearing up to conduct door-to-door surveys in selected communities to assess the prevalence of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), specifically yaws, trachoma, and scabies. This initiative follows the completion of an integrated surveillance survey training program involving over 90 public health officers in Honiara from 11 – 15 September 2023.
Oliver Sokana, a representative from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, shared insights into the purpose of this prevalence survey saying,”We want to gauge the prevalence of these diseases within the community,” Sokana explained, highlighting that this data will be instrumental in shaping the ministry’s strategies for addressing these ailments in affected areas.
These diseases are termed “neglected” as they primarily afflict impoverished populations and historically haven’t received as much attention as other health issues. In the case of the Solomon Islands, the focus will be solely on these three NTDs.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary Pauline McNeil, during the survey training program’s launch, emphasized the Ministry of Health’s dedication to enhancing national public health efforts and promoting activities at the provincial and community levels. She traced the beginnings of the NTD initiative in the country to 2011, with trachoma being the initial focus. In 2015, following the introduction of activities related to scabies, the World Health Organization recognized the establishment of NTD as a crucial public health program. However, due to a shortage of human resources, the program experienced delays until 2020, when new partners, including the Murdoch Children Research Institution of the University of Melbourne, the Kirby Institution of the University of New South Wales, and the Fred Hollows Foundation, joined the effort. This injection of resources and commitment led to remarkable achievements in a short period, benefiting many Solomon Islanders, particularly women and children.
Between 2022 and the present, the Ministry rolled out Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programs, extending the program’s reach to more people in the provinces, including Honiara. Mrs. McNeil reaffirmed the Ministry’s dedication to the NTD program and disclosed ongoing discussions about establishing an NTD Unit, illustrating their commitment to the cause.
Mr. Sokana, on the other hand, appealed to residents across the country to cooperate with public health officers when they visit their communities. He stressed that participation in the survey is voluntary, and no one will be coerced into taking part. Nonetheless, he encouraged residents to participate willingly, as their involvement will contribute positively to the Ministry of Health’s efforts to combat trachoma, yaws, and scabies in the communities.