Upgrading WHO's office in Solomon Islands

News release

HONIARA, Solomon Islands, 28 August 2012 – An important milestone was reached today in relations between the World Health Organization (WHO) and Solomon Islands with a ceremony marking the official upgrade of the Organization’s country presence to full status as a WHO Representative Office.

Among the special guests were WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo, Solomon Islands Minister for Health and Medical Services Charles Sigoto and Solomon Islands Supervising Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade Seth Gukuna.

Dr Shin said the upgrade was undertaken to keep pace with evolving public health challenges in Solomon Islands and was in keeping the office's "rapid expansion in terms of health programmes and personnel".

"This expanding mission is a reflection of the increased importance that the government places on health, as well as a growing interest in the Pacific among development partners," he said.

Dr Shin highlighted a recent external assessment of the WHO office, which suggested that "both the government and development partners recognize the significant contribution of WHO" and that "both wish to ensure that WHO maintains a strong presence and performance at country level".

"For WHO, much remains to be done to fulfil our mission of improving health opportunities for all Solomon Islanders," Dr Shin said. "For making this work possible, we would like to thank our partners in the Pacific. We would also like to congratulate the government of Solomon Islands and the Ministry of Health Medical Services. Great advances have been seen across the health sector under the strong leadership of the Minister, the Honourable Charles Sigoto. Our collaboration and cooperation have never been stronger."

Dr Shin and Mr Sigoto travelled later to the town of Gizo to visit clinics and area health centres and to witness the collaborative work of WHO and the ministry.

Under Acting WHO Representative Dr Juliet Fleischl, the WHO office is building upon its longstanding work with the ministry and with other health partners to strengthen the response to malaria, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases.

In addition, the office is expanding its work in the area of health systems, with a strong focus on supporting the ministry's stewardship and coordination of the health sector, as well as strengthening primary health care as the foundation for the response to the noncommunicable diseases, such as heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, and to the twin challenges of maternal and child health.

WHO's relationship with Solomon Islands dates to 1953 when the country was still under British rule. A country liaison office was established in 1981, two years after Solomon Islands became independent and two years before it became a WHO Member States. The Representative Office is the eleventh in the Western Pacific Region.