21 Jun 2013

Solomons' Isabel province leads the way to eliminating malaria

5:17 pm on 21 June 2013

Strong community involvement has been key in helping a province in Solomon Islands move towards eliminating malaria.

The Ministry of Health says the number of confirmed malaria cases in Solomon Islands has dropped significantly, with Isabel Province leading the way.

Leilani Momoisea reports.

The National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme found that confirmed cases of malaria in Solomon Islands dropped from 132-per-1,000 people in 2007 to 44-per-1,000 people in 2012. Isabel Province, in contrast, had just 1 case per 1,000 people tested in 2012. The permanent secretary of health and medical services, Dr Lester Ross, says Isabel province is one of two provinces chosen to take part in a malaria elimination pilot programme. He says the low rate of malaria in Isabel is due to vigorous efforts from the community.

"DR LESTER ROSS: Strong support from the provincial government, from the traditional chiefs, and the third one is from the church, especially through their Mothers' Union - this is the womens group that is spearheading the activities for the church. They are in all of the communities, they ensure the villages are clean, they make sure that the children and people that have malaria have their treatment, and they also help in the distribution of these long-lasting treated bed-nets."

The Anglican Church of Melanesia works with the provincial government and health services to help educate the community on staying healthy. Father Joseph Kusa of the Diocese of Isabel says they are encouraged at the news they are leading the country in its malaria elimination effort, but there is still more to be done.

JOSEPH KUSA: Visiting the villages and encourage them to make the villages tidy, the important thing is that let us not stop making the awareness talk and educating people on health issues, because primary health is not in the hospitals and clinic, but primary health begins at home.

The clinical nurse consultant at the Isabel Provincial Hospital, Helen Marau, says a programme called 'the tidy village campaign' awards the cleanest villages at the end of each year with prizes. She says villages are also judged on how healthy they stay throughout the year by checking on medical records from each area. Helen Marau says getting the message out about preventing malaria is made easy because of the strong partnership with village chiefs.

HELEN MARAU: Since the 'tidy village campaign' was established in Isabel, we have a low malaria cases here admitting to the ward, and the tents and malaria tablets we don't use very much, so the people in Isabel should continue to tidy their village.

Helen Marau says the biggest challenge is people travelling in and out of Isabel, from places like Honiara, who have the potential to spread the disease. She says tidy campaign efforts had to be doubled recently with the outbreak of dengue fever a few months back. Isabel Province hopes to eliminate malaria from the province by 2014.