The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services Dr. Lester Ross officially launched the Mass-Drug Administration, a strategy aiming to eliminate trachoma in Solomon Islands in the Western provincial capital Gizo on 11 June 2014 with the theme “YUMI DRINKIM MERESIN FO STOPEM TRACHOMA”.
The official launching was attended by the British high commission to Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Nauru Dominic Meikeljohn, Western Provincial Minister for Finance, Delegates from the DFAT lead by Kirsten Hawke – Counsellor, Service Delivery, Health and Education, the Fred Hollows Foundation Australia and the Western provincial health director Dr Gregory Jilini.
Trachoma has been described as an “ancient disease and a weapon of mass destruction”.
It is the leading infectious cause of blindness which responsible for over 8million blindness in the world today.
Over 84 million people are currently living with active disease that needs treatment.
Transmission is from flies and poor personal hygienic practices such as sharing of infected towel or cloth on the face used by infected person and infected hands.
The Ministry of health conducted a full population based prevalence survey between 2011 and 2013 and found the prevalence of the active was 18.7%, ranged from 7.3% to 25% by provinces.
This means the disease is endemic in Solomon Islands.
Azithromycin treatment is recommended drug by the world health organization (WHO) to treat people in endemic areas of trachoma.
WHO confirmed 56 countries are endemic of the disease including Solomon Islands.
The launching in Gizo marks the opening of the MDA in the country. Every province except Choiseul is not qualified to this treatment.
Children from 6months to adult will receive the treatment. Those below 6months and pregnant women will receive tetracycline Eye ointment to be applied two times a day for 6 weeks.
It is very important that these treatments must be taken because; trachoma can lead to blindness if not treated.
The disease can be symptomatic free so people are at risk of blindness if they do not sort treatment early.
British high commissioner Mr Meikeljohn expressed appreciation and stated that, the mapping and the MDA programs are partnership of the Solomon Islands government through the Ministry of health, the British government, Australian government, the Fred Hollows Foundation and all the provincial governments including communities that will receive the treatment.
DFAT representative Kirsten Hawke – Counsellor, Service Delivery, Health and Education, thanked the ministry of health for extending the invitation to DFAT.
The good work by doctors and nurses in this scattered Island nation was acknowledge by the DFAT rep.
Kristian highlighted the support of Australia in the health development of Solomon Islands.
She said Australia’s main objective is to support the health system in Solomon Islands.
She highlighted the importance of the water and sanitation, stating that the aim is to ensure 100% of Solomon Islands citizens have access to water and proper sanitation
The FHF representative stated its continuous support to Solomon Islands ministry of health to this program.
The foundation is committed to eliminate trachoma in the region and it’s good to see Solomon Islands is taking the lead to this very important initiative.
The Hollows foundation is the coordinating organization of the QEDJT in the Pacific.
The Permanent Secretary in his launching remarks thanked all partners for the support.
He highlighted the importance of having a healthy nation, particularly healthy eyes.
He said the commitment of the MoH is to ensure the trachoma elimination target is achieved.
The permanent secretary assured all partners that the ministry will continue to support the national program to achieve its aim in eliminating this blinding disease.
He urged all relevant divisions within the ministry to continue to work hand-in-hand to ensure the goals are reached.
The drug is supplied by Pfizer in response to WHO call to eliminate trachoma by the year 2020.
Much of the supplies that is enough for the 2014 for the whole country is already in the country.
Every single person should receive one dose every year for 3 years.
Part of the official opening, the permanent secretary lead the Ministry of health staff to first take the treatment in front of the public in Gizo; a sign to show the drug is safe with high benefit.