It's a small world

Even during COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, our Nursing students could help address global health issues.

Paama is a small island in Vanuatu which is vulnerable to natural disasters. Its population of about 1800 enjoys a strong collective culture but has limited health care access. Resources such as fuel are expensive because of the transport costs to get them to Paama.

Our Nursing students recently worked on community development projects with the Paama community. In consultation with community representatives on five occasions, the students identified three health issues which they could help the community to address by creating appropriate health resources.

  1. Oral health: The population has no consistent access to either dental care or oral hygiene resources. Some of the students developed a poster showing how to brush teeth effectively. Because the team was unable to travel to Vanuatu due to COVID-19 lockdown, they have donated the funds they raised which it is hoped will be used to provide the school children with a year's supply of toothbrushes and toothpaste by extending the Gudfala Tut Paste programme to Paama.
  2. Respiratory health: Much of the cooking in the villages on Paama is done on open fires inside the houses with poor ventilation. The students prepared a poster that showed the health effects of smoke inhalation, and encouraged uptake of a low-smoke stove design which could be made from locally available materials.
  3. Food security: Natural disasters can seriously compromise food security. Fishing is not popular because of the high cost of fuel to run a boat, but fish farming would be a sustainable way to provide a good source of protein. The third group of students developed a poster raising awareness of fish farming, and a pamphlet with advice about considerations for setting up a fish farm and operating it.

These resources are being translated into the Bislama language thanks to a local Ni-Van nurse working at Mercy Hospital, and will be distributed in Paama through a local community development partner, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu.

May 2021

Image credit: Cynthia Leigh Mullens, used with permission