Press Release – OceansWatch
As OceansWatch prepares for its 2013 Expedition to the South Pacific we would like to extend our thanks to all our great sponsors especially those amongst the Whangarei Marine Industries – Your help makes it all possible!OceansWatch provided First Aid supplies to the Solomon Islands
As OceansWatch prepares for its 2013 Expedition to the South Pacific we would like to extend our thanks to all our great sponsors especially those amongst the Whangarei Marine Industries – Your help makes it all possible!
OceansWatch has as its core mission to work in partnership with island communities to manage their marine resources and to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities. One of the ways we enhance our engagement with the communities is to provide simple solutions to some of the other problems that they are also experiencing. We feel it enhances their awareness and therefore improves compliance of the fishing regulations.
In Fenualoa, in the Reef Islands, they have one small clinic and one nurse on the island. Some of the village people talk about the lack of health facilities and the distance to the clinic. So in 2012, OceansWatch support yacht, Pegasus provided transport for fourteen boxes of first aid supplies. These boxes provided dressings and bandages as well as some medication. These boxes are collected by another charitable organisation in New Zealand, Medical Aid Abroad, and because this is something physical that the people can see we are contributing they are always very happy and grateful.
We gave all the medication to the clinic and Charles the nurse there was very pleased as he often runs out of supplies and carries a lot of responsibility. Hopefully he has been able to handle any extra demands as a result of the recent Tsunami. We give the supplies to selected village people, often a teacher. These people are already donating their time and caring abilities and it is often the children that need the first aid.
In many ways it might be expected that the islanders would be fit and healthy as they eat mostly what they grow and catch and there is little in the way of toxic chemicals in the environment. Looking at the young men and women in the villages they certainly do look healthy and strong from digging in their gardens. During our household surveys they reported that the common illnesses that one would expect in a survey in New Zealand were also the most common issues they had to deal with. These included flu like symptoms and coughs. At the clinic Charles admission records showed that respiratory problems were in the majority. As they do all their cooking on open fires and these are often inside a small outhouse they can be exposed to a lot of smoke. We are looking at some options of some small stoves that are being trialled in Vanuatu that reduce smoke and also use less wood. The latter is a benefit as growing space is limited on the small islands.
One of the main problems that they express is annual food shortages. This is one of the main reasons why it is important for them to know they will have a sustainable fish supply. The food shortages and lack of high protein foods results in their biggest health issue, which is the under five mortality which in the Solomon Islands like four other Pacific islands still has a rate of above 30 per 1,000 births. Certainly Charles lost one baby at childbirth while we were there. Many of the children under five are obviously malnourished and have the typical symptoms of kwashiorkor or Protein energy malnutrition. The child’s chances of survival improve when the mother is healthy and poor nutrition in the mother and in the baby, after weaning, is the underlying cause of many deaths.
Other factors are also important to child health like access to fresh water, good sanitation and also the education of the mother. As we are already present working in the communities OceansWatch has a policy of doing what it can to improve the livelihoods of all the people. We are also looking at a child nutrition program in future years.
Another condition that is seen here and in the South Pacific is Tinea imbricata (Tokelau Ringworm or Bakwa). It causes constant irritation and low self esteem. In developed countries this is easily treatable and preventable. There is one child with Bakwa, Mary that the crew got to know well in 2012 and this year we are taking up ‘Bakwa packs’ of medication and fresh clothes and soap to help her and others with the problem. We are raising funds to provide these packs. Please donate here towards these packs.