Health and media enhance health promotion post-floods

News release

Honiara, 25 April 2014 - To foster dialogue with the media and to get support for health promotion, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) in Solomon Islands conducted a media forum on 23 April 2014. The forum provided the health sector and local media personnel an opportunity to discuss the health-related concerns facing the flood survivors.

“Communication is very important in the overall health response to this disaster and we want the support of the media in doing our work”, says Dr. Lester Ross, Permanent Secretary of the MHMS.

Cluster leaders from the areas of health, nutrition, vector-borne diseases, surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) were joined by local media organisations from the print and broadcast media.

“The media forum enabled MHMS to highlight the complexity of this disaster and the multi-layered response that is needed from the Ministry, partners and donors,” says Audrey Aumua, Acting WHO Representative in Solomon Islands. “We need the media’s support in our health promotion work; to share in the rebuilding and recovery through their communication networks.”

Almost three weeks have passed since the flash-floods hit Honiara city and Guadalcanal Province in the Solomon Islands, displacing over to 10,000 people and killing 23. “The main health priority we have now is on delivery of basic health services, not only at the response stage, but all the way to the recovery stages”, says Dr. Tenneth Dalipanda, Incident Command Manager from the MHMS Emergency Operation Centre.

The need for mental health and psycho-social support was highlighted as an issue of particular concern. This includes the emergency mental health services at the evacuation centres and the flood affected communities. WHO health partner Médecins Sans Frontières has deployed a psychologist to assist with this.

Water quality, sanitation and hygiene are ongoing issues as several water sources in Honiara and Guadalcanal have been contaminated or destroyed and many still do not have access to toilets. WASH cluster specialist emphasised that temporary toilets are being built in the centres and affected communities, but new infrastructure will not built in areas that did not have anything prior to the floods.

Health promotion is critical across the different health concerns mentioned, with the immediate need for water and sanitation messages, as well as on basic hygiene and food safety practices. Director of Health Promotion Department Alby Lovi gave a detailed presentation of the health promotion communication plan of the health ministry in response to this disaster.

At this stage of the relief effort, it is also important to improve and strengthen the surveillance system to effectively detect post-disaster risk and potential impact of an epidemic of a number of diseases including dengue, diarrhoea and malaria. This is being done in close collaboration with MHMS.

MHMS and WHO technical specialists have been working closely in the areas of preventive and curative services, health cluster coordination, public health, vector control, food safety and nutrition, strengthening surveillance system, water and sanitation, conducting risk assessments, and risk communication.

WHO will continue to support the MHMS, collaborating closely with development partners and the donor community, in both the initial response as well as health system recovery stages.

For more information contact:
Ms. Samantha Chapman
Communications Officer in Honiara, Solomon Islands
Mobile: (+677) 7839327
Telephone: (+677) 23 406