Local water and sanitation solutions required in Pacific

For girl students, and students with a disability in the Pacific, attending school can be difficult. In part, this is because there is often a lack of adequate washing and toilet facilities. For girl students who are menstruating, they may not attend school if there are not adequate facilities or they may leave part way through the day. In some schools in the Pacific, there are no washing and toilet facilities for any students. The lack of facilities means some students do not get the education they deserve.

This was one finding from the recent review of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) literature that focused on girl students, and students with a disability in Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Written by Atoifi Health Research Group members, along with WASH and development specialists, the review shows that the sustainable WASH systems in Pacific schools need to focus on the end user, that is the students, in partnership with their teachers, families and communities.

The promising examples of successful WASH solutions in schools were solutions that used simple, locally available materials to respond to needs identified by the students themselves.

You can read the review for free here:

You can also listen to an interview about the review with Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren, conducted by ABC Radio’s Seini Taumoepeau from ABC Pacific Mornings: (WASH interview starts at 1hr 3 mins on time bar)

For more information about the review, please email Michelle Redman-MacLaren or Humpress Harrington

Health research training at Atoifi for Solomon Islands

Want to learn more about the Health Research training held at Atoifi from 21-25 May, 2018? Then watch this video, courtesy of the Atoifi Media team!

In the video, facilitators and Research Fellows discuss a health research training program adapted for Pacific island countries. Based on the WHO SORT-iT research capacity building program, this James Cook University-led training program was conducted in partnership with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services, and delivered at Atoifi Hospital in rural Malaita. The 20 Research Fellows were from Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

For more information, please contact Mr Humpress Harrington or Ms Freda Pitakaka

Point-of-care tests for syphilis and yaws in Solomon Islands: a new research article

Dr Michael Marks from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, along with colleagues from Atoifi Health Research Group, have evaluated the experience of healthcare workers and patients using a newly-developed point of care test for syphilis and yaws in the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands has the third most cases of yaws in the world each year, after Ghana and Papua New Guinea.

Dr Marks explains, "Syphilis and yaws are closely related bacterial infections. In many countries where the diseases are found there is limited access to diagnostic testing. Recently a point of care test for both diseases has been developed."

The point of care test was deployed in the outpatient and ante-natal departments of Atoifi Hospital and four rural health clinics in surrounding communities of East Kwaio. Researchers from the Atoifi Health Research Group then evaluated the experience of healthcare workers and patients in using the test.

Ms Rowena Asugeni, Director of Research at Atoifi Hospital, reported, "both healthcare workers and patients experienced the point of care test as a positive development."

The speed with which health care workers could provide the results was appreciated. One health care worker said, "last taem ia, bae mifala givim go lo lab afta wan wik na bifo mifala resivim resolt (before when we have the sample to the lab we had to wait a week to receive the result)."

Patients also reported that improving access to testing at the clinic level was beneficial due to the delays involved in travelling to hospitals for testing. One patient explained, "sendem go lo hospital o sendem go lo olketa nara place testim kam olketa blud ia ating bae hem lelebet slo to so ating hem gud na for okelta makem lo hia nomoa (being sent to a hospital or another place for blood tests is slow so it is good to be able to take it here)."

Longer term and larger evaluations of point of care testing are now required to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of scaling up the use of the tests to help manage syphilis and yaws in Solomon Islands.

Findings have been published in the PLOS NTDs journal. You can read the article in full for FREE:

For more information, please contact: Dr Michael Marks michael.marks[at] or Ms Rowena Asugeni rowenaasugeni[at]

Stop looking for WASH silver bullets

"Let’s stop looking for WASH silver bullets*: the solution must come from the people."

This was one of the key messages delivered by Dr Dani Barrington (University of Leeds) and Mr Humpress Harrington (Pacific Adventist University/James Cook University) at the recent Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Futures conference held in Brisbane, Australia early March.

Sharing more than close similarities in their surnames, Dr Barrington and Mr Harrington are both committed to embracing local ways of learning and knowing to inform WASH education and engineering practice.

Dr Barrington and Mr Harrington drew on evidence examined during a recent review of literature about the WASH needs of girls and students with a disability in Pacific island countries and territories (details below). They reported to WASH Futures Conference participants that projects in Pacific schools demonstrate the potential for targeted and locally relevant responses.

Mr Harrington, a Nurse Researcher and Atoifi Health Research Group member from Solomon Islands said, “The thing that resonated most with the audience at our presentation was the idea that solutions must come from the people affected, and that community based participatory research is the way to go about this in the Pacific.”

Dr Barrington, an Australian WASH Engineering Researcher from University of Leeds explained, “Almost all practitioners or researchers attending our presentation were working in the Pacific, and all agreed that we need to make sure that we embrace local cultures when designing WASH programs, and not just try to ‘get around’ them”.

The aim of the presentation was to promote an understanding that WASH practitioners in the Pacific can feel that their knowledge of local ways of getting things done is actually very valuable, perhaps even more so than technical WASH knowledge. Mr Harrington reminds us to encourage those being impacted by poor WASH “to be actively involved in finding and implementing their own workable solutions”.

Indeed, the silver bullet might just be solutions that come from the people.

*‘silver bullet’ refers to an immediate solution to a complicated problem


Story by: Michelle Redman-MacLaren

Photo: Dani Barrington and Humpress Harrington presenting at WASH Futures; Photo credit: Elizabeth Gumbaketi via @egumbaketi

Work detailed in the presentation is elaborated on in: Redman-MacLaren, M., Barrington, D.J., Harrington, H., Cram, D., Selep, J., MacLaren, D. ‘Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools to promote girls' health and education in Pacific Island countries: A systematic scoping review.’ Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, (in review).

Thank you to partners: James Cook University, University of Leeds, Pacific Adventist University, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, World Vision Papua New Guinea and CQUniversity.

For more information about this story, please email:
• Michelle Redman-MacLaren / @shelmaclaren
• Dani Barrington / @dani_barrington