Impacts of sea level rise in Solomon Islands presented at International Conference: An interview with Tommy Esau

....Referred to in this interview:
Tides of Transformation conference presentation

Video of Miriam Asugeni discussing impacts of climate change on women and girls in Abitona village, East Kwaio, Solomon Islands, by Ben Speare

In this interview, Tommy Esau, Research Worker, Atoifi Health Research Group, discusses his first international conference presentation at the Australian Association for Pacific Studies Conference, Tides of Transformation, Cairns, Australia.

by Michelle Redman-MacLaren

What was the main message of your presentation at the Tides of Transformation conference?

The main message of the presentation was about the impact of sea level rise, how it affects our village at Abitona. As you know the impact of sea level rise has caused a lot of physical impact, social impact, some other economic impacts. Mainly the local problem that we face is sea level rise has a physical impact on the main path we use to walk between two villages. In the past we used to have logs on the path, but because of sea level rise it washes the logs away. It has become a problem to the community, and to the school children, and to the old people and the mothers going to market and the hospital. As a local community we came together and fundraised to build a bridge that can help people walk freely - make a link between that two villages. The community are happy about the response to the problem.

What motivated you to present at the conference?

What motivated me to talk to the conference is to help others see the impact of the sea level rise, not only in a big scale, but in a small scale, in a local community. How we as a local community can come together and be a response to local problems. In that way others might hear from it and learn from it. If they also face that problem, they might also learn from that.

One of the aims of the Atoifi Health Research Group is to strengthen research capacity to undertake research activities, including presenting. Can you tell us how did you prepare for the conference presentation?

Prior to the presentation, we had some practice at home, we did a few practices before the presentation. It was very good, before the presentation, the practice was very good to give me some ideas, some critiques. Just before we actually did the presentation we also had some final practice in the room during lunchtime before we actually did the presentation and that was really helpful.

Some might be curious as to how you felt before you started the presentation? What were your feelings?

Just like any person if it is your first time to present in a public presentation, I felt a bit nervous, because looking in the room there are a lot of big people, qualified people like doctors and professors were there, different people, well educated people. It is an academic conference so you expect critique from different people, so you feel a bit nervous. But I tell myself, ‘you have to do it’, so and we did, and also with Michelle and David motivating me and helping me to be confident to do the presentation, but before that I felt a bit nervous, but after that I felt fine.

Do you feel like you connected with the audience? If yes, how did that change the way you presented?

At first, before I went up to the stage and started talking, what makes me connected to the audience, I just look at the audience and I guess my eye contact helped me connect with the audience, and also involving the audience, for example I mentioned some of the names of the audience, like Dr Simon (Foale), so that helped me be connected to the audience, so just by looking at the audience and talking it helped be to be confident. I found when I did my presentation and I looked at the people and then they smiled at me I saw some connection there, and that really helped me to talk more confidently. When you talk to people and they are nodding their head and smiling at you, they connect to what you are presenting.

Did you receive any feedback or comments after the presentation?

I received some positive comments after the presentation. Some said, ‘you did a very good job’. One lady came to me and said thanks for the presentation and she said I spoke so confidently, so that made me feel happy after the presentation. Some of my friends came to the presentation and gave some good comments, saying ‘you know the topic well and you connected to the audience’, so that made me happy.

Where to next? What is your next speaking appointment?

Next week, me and David (MacLaren) are going to Sydney and we will meet important people such as Professor Tim Flanery and others, so I am looking forward to that. Who knows what is in the future, I am looking forward to an opportunity to present at another conference, so now I am happy and I think I can handle it.

Bo`a le`a ba`ita Tommy!

To listen to the interview in full, please visit:

Many thanks to Rowena Asugeni, James Asugeni, Frank Timothy and Abitona and other WAGG communities for sharing your stories.

Mental health impacts of climate change: or email

New Partnership to Test for Yaws in East Malaita

Yaws is mostly a disease of children who live in poor, rural settings and is usually found in the topics. Solomon Islands reports the second highest number of cases of yaws worldwide (Marks 2015).

A new collaborative research project is being launched by the Atoifi Health Research Group and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Solomon Islands.

The aim of the project is to develop and pilot a training and quality control package for the use of the DPP-RDT, a new screening test that can distinguish between current and past infection. This may make the test more useful test in clinical practice.

Atoifi Hospital and clinics in the East Malaita catchment area will participate in this project, with health care workers provided with training on the use of the DPP-RDT test. The research team will visit health workers and interview them about their experience of the test.

This project contributes to research capacity strengthening for health workers in rural areas and will generate valuable information about yaws in this part of Solomon Islands.

For more information, please email: Mrs Rowena Asugeni or Dr Michael Marks at

You can read a recent free article about yaws by Dr Marks and colleagues, see:

Photo: Dr Michael Marks with children in Western Province, Solomon Islands

Atoifi Health Research Group features in documentary


This week, a documentary was released that features the recent work of Atoifi Health Research Group on Marovo Island, Western Solomons.

Entitled 'Parasites in Paradise- a soil transmitted helminth survey in Marovo', the documentary records the recent survey of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) conducted in Chea and Sasaghana villages. There is footage of village based research assistants, methods used to conduct the STH survey and interviews with many of the Atoifi Health Research group, including leaders Emeritus Professor Rick Speare, Tropical Health Solutions (THS) Mr Humpress Harrington, Pacific Adventist University (PAU) and Dr David MacLaren, James Cook University (JCU).

The Parasites in Paradise documentary is an excellent description of both the STH survey and the way research capacity strengthening is conducted by the Atoifi Health Research Group. A bonus is the stunning scenery and great music!

Dr David MacLaren of JCU said, "The documentary is also a useful teaching tool for those wanting to learn more about participatory and community-based research in low-resource, tropical environments". He explained, "I have already had the opportunity to share parts of the documentary and discuss with a cohort of PhD candidates, and it was very well received".

To view the documentary for free, visit:

'Parasites in Paradise- a soil transmitted helminth survey in Marovo' was filmed and edited by Ben Speare, of Speare Shot Media and produced by Tropical Health Solutions, in collaboration with Atoifi Health Research Group, Pacific Adventist University and James Cook University.

Speare Shot Media:
Tropical Health Solutions:
Running Time: 54 minutes

A short report of the survey, including findings from the STH screening, is available here:

2016 Greg Urwin Awards Recipients Announced

The news story below was posted by the Pacific Leadership Program about the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients. It features Atoifi's Research Nurse, Mr Hilary Toloka. Congratulations Hillary!

Story via:


Five outstanding Pacific Islanders have been awarded the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards.

The Greg Urwin Awards are an Australian Government-Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) joint initiative. The Awards were established in 2008 to honour the memory and the legacy of the former Secretary General of PIFS and a former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, the late Mr Greg Urwin.

Funded through the Australian-funded Pacific Leadership Program (PLP), the Awards provide financial support for up to AUD 25,000.00 for outstanding Pacific Island professionals, researchers and emerging leaders. Recipients are funded to undertake a three to six-month placement with a regional organisation or institution that has the potential to contribute to positive development in the region.

More than 20 emerging leaders from the region have completed placements under the Awards. There were more than 45 applications from the region for this round of the Awards.

“The applications we received were of a very high calibre. The Awardees indicated their passion in their respective fields. They also demonstrated that their placements will not only provide them with professional experience but also assist them in developing their leadership capacity and contribute positively to their countries and the region,” said Dame Meg Taylor, PIFS Secretary General and the Chairperson of the Awards Selection Committee.

“The five Awardees have made and are currently making significant contributions to their fields of interest ranging from health research and children’s rights advocacy to sustainable fisheries. We congratulate them and wish them the best in their endeavours.”

The 2016 Greg Urwin Awardees are:

Ms Adi Talanaivini Mafi (Tonga) is a Legal Officer with the Ministry of Justice. Ms Mafi will be based with the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) within the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Fiji to advocate for the rights of children within the Tongan criminal justice system and identify legal provisions that will eradicate legally mandated violence against children.

Mr Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands) is a Research Nurse based at the Atofi Adventist Hospital in the Solomon Islands. He envisions research and leadership as essential to improving health systems in the Solomon Islands. He will serve his placement at James Cook University in Australia where he hopes to build networks and partnerships between Solomon Islands researchers and international researchers.

Dr Laila Seduadua (Fiji) is a Medical Doctor with postgraduate qualifications in paediatrics. Her area of focus is improving comprehensive care for children with cancer. She will serve her placement with the Christchurch Hospital Oncology Department and hopes that the placement will assist her to establish the Child Cancer Research and Registry for the Pacific.

Ms Zuabe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) is a Program Coordinator in a health program in Morobe Province. She holds a Master’s Degree (Honors) in Public Health and has more than 10 years experience in sexual reproductive health. She is interested in promoting rural indigenous PNG women’s sexual reproductive and general health. She will serve her placement with Morobe Council of Women’s office of Community Development Division.

Mr Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) is an Environmental Consultant. He holds a Masters of Arts from the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London. He will be based in the office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), Majuro, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Melino hopes to broaden his expertise in natural resources and to review the PNA’s partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which identify opportunities to improve the sustainability of tuna resources and increase the contributions of fisheries to the development of the Pacific.

The awards are co-managed by the Pacific Leadership Program and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Photo: 2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients L-R: Dr. Laila Sauduadua (Fiji), Vini Mafi (Tonga), Zuaibe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) and Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands)
2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients L-R: Dr. Laila Sauduadua (Fiji), Vini Mafi (Tonga), Zuaibe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) and Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands)