Health services restored on Tanna Island

Health services restored on Tanna IslandThe Ministry of Health of Vanuatu, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, have delivered and installed interim equipment to restore services at damaged health facilities on cyclone-ravaged Tanna Island. Health workers in these areas now have the space and equipment they need to consult and treat patients, while the longer term rebuilding of facilities is carried out over the coming months.

“Making sure people have access to health services was our first priority,” said Mr Viran Tovu, Chair of the Health Cluster at the Ministry of Health. “These interim measures are the first step. We will rebuild these facilities permanently, and make them better.”

Staff from the Ministry of Health and WHO delivered and set up tents, generators, lighting systems and other materials at the damaged health facilities at Green Hill, Ikiti and Kitow on Tanna Island.

Similar equipment is en route to damaged health facilities at Utas and Naviso on Ambrym and Maewo islands.

“We had many challenges after the cyclone,” said Dr Richard Leona, Acting Superintendent of Vila Central Hospital and Health Cluster lead on medical evacuations and foreign medical team coordination. “Luckily, we had a lot of external support. We need to look at our disaster plans and prepare our health infrastructure to be ready for the next cyclone.”

Out of the 71 health facilities that Cyclone Pam affected, 19 were completely destroyed and 32 were damaged.

In addition, power was knocked out, roads were blocked, and phone lines were down, making it more difficult for health workers to report to work and for people to get care.

The Ministry of Health has relied on 22 foreign medical teams to help meet urgent needs following the cyclone. Seven of these teams continue operations in Vanuatu.

While continuing to install interim measures to restore health services, the Ministry of Health with support from WHO and other partners have committed to building back a better health system.

Efforts to make the health system stronger than it was before the cyclone are focused on:

rebuilding better health facilities with new equipment and supplies;
improving quality of care with specialized training and recruitment in priority areas, such as intra-partum and neonatal care, and by setting and updating guidelines and protocols;
enhancing disease surveillance through building lasting capacity; and
applying lessons learned from Cyclone Pam to strengthen preparedness planning.
“We’re determined to use the cyclone as an opportunity to rebuild a stronger system, so the people of Vanuatu can receive better health care and be better prepared for the next disaster,” said Dr Roy Cosico, a WHO coordinator in Vanuatu. “WHO will continue to support the Ministry of Health for the months and years to come.”