East Kwaio communities prepare for COVID-19

by Tommy Esau, Baru Conservation Alliance

World Health Organization (WHO), health authorities and other stakeholders around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Solomon Islands is among the few countries in the world who have not recorded any positive cases of COVID-19, community engagement readiness and initial response for this novel Coronavirus is crucial at this time.

COVID-19 prevention activities are being delivered by Mr Tommy Esau, Baru Conservation Alliance and Mr Gideon Fatalaea, a registered nurse from Atoifi Hospital. Youth and community leaders who are committed are also volunteering their time and service. Community Awareness measures are being implemented in both the Atoifi Catchment Area and Eastern Region Zones 1 – 4.

The Baru Conservation Alliance, a registered Non-Government Organisation in Solomon Islands, is also delivering awareness to people in the mountains. Led by Chief Esau Kekeubata and Maasafi Alabai, Baru Conservation Alliance has provided COVID-19 awareness to six communities on the coast, along with five hamlets and small villages in the mountains.

Challenges that we faced were time, resources and logistics, especially fuel for generators and the outboard motor to travel between coastal communities in East Kwaio. These challenges did not stop the team! Baru Conservation Alliance members volunteered their time and used the Atoifi Health Research Group boat for transport. We also gave community awareness talks during a scheduled trip to remote mountain villages where we are working on a sanitation program.

The Baru Conservation Alliance response team is also working closely with each community to set up their health committees and response team to identify isolation sites, quarantine sites, and develop effective action plans and communication systems. Communities in East Malaita are working to be prepared for this novel coronavirus. This work is an excellent foundation for us to respond to other infectious diseases that also affect communities in East Kwaio like malaria and TB.

Photo: (L-R): Community leaders meet with Atoifi Hospital staff at a COVID-19 planning Day at Atoifi Hospital; Nurse Gideon Fatalaea provides community awareness at Ilinunu village in East Kwaio.

For more information, please contact: Mr Tommy Esau

Atoifi Hospital prepares for COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. While no COVID-19 has been detected in Solomon Islands, the Government, health services and other agencies are preparing for the possibility of COVID-19 in the country.

Dr Jason Diau, Medical Director and CEO of Atoifi Hospital reminds us that the key messages for COVID-19 prevention are, “wash your hands, stay home when sick, cough or sneeze into your elbow and clean frequently”.

What is happening in Solomon Islands?
On the 25th March, 2020 the Solomon Islands Government declared a State of Emergency which included the activation of a National Emergency center in Honiara and the formation of task-forces in all provinces.

What is happening at Atoifi Hospital?
Dr Diau explains, “At Atoifi Hospital, after consultation with government authorities and church leaders, the Administration Committee has established the “Atoifi Emergency Operational Committee (AEOC) as the Committee responsible for Atoifi Hospital preparedness planning, and for coordination of East Malaita clinics and community responses.”

These community representatives, who are leaders in their communities, have been trained and appointment, with two community representatives also invited to be members of the AEOC. The community representatives are Mr Tommy Esau, representative for communities South of Atoifi and Mr Joseph Ishmael, representative for communities North of Atoifi. The health clinic team in Nafinua will also nominate, train and support community representatives.

The Hospital is focusing on awareness about simple hygiene measures and includes ward talks to patients and relatives about COVID19 and ways to prevent it. Dr Diau reports, “Isolation wards have been selected and are awaiting provincial/national facility inspectors to inspect before further preparation work can be done.”

An alternate public access has been completed from the jetty along the fence line all the way to the hydro station in case Atoifi Hospital has to be quarantined. This is important as the Hospital road has been used as public road in the past.

What is happening at Atoifi College of Nursing?
The Atoifi College of Nursing is planning to resume classes on 25th May and is thus prioritizing completion of the dining hall facility so that all College of Nursing activities will be away from the main hospital buildings.

Community Awareness Measures
Community Awareness Measures are being planned in both the Atoifi Catchment Area and Eastern Region Zones 1 – 4. Some community preparation activities already been delivered by Mr Tommy Esau (reported in a separate news story on Atoifi Health Research Website).

For more information about the COVID-19 response in East Malaita, please email Dr Diau at:

Photo (supplied by J. Diau): Eastern Region Nurses and AEOC members at the COVID-19 Training on 7 April, 2020.

Family Planning research in Solomon Islands

By Relmah Harrington

Universal access to family planning has been a priority agenda in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories including the Solomon Islands. Current evidence suggests that the use of contraceptives for family planning can prevent mothers and babies from dying and improve the family’s livelihood. When clients have access to family planning services they are more likely to use contraception or support their spouses to use it.

In Solomon Islands, family planning services are available and provided at most health clinics, however not everyone can access the service. Recent statistics also show low use of contraceptives.

Given this situation, I, as a Solomon Islander midwife and midwifery lecturer, am conducting a PhD research study at James Cook University, Australia to find out how family planning services are being provided at the health clinic level. Of the health clinics selected as partners in this study, I have already worked with an urban government-run service and a rural faith-based family planning clinic.

From September 25th– 29th October 2019, I undertook my first field trip and visited and urban and rural clinic where I collected data from family planning reports and register books. I also interviewed women, men and family planning nurses using semi-structured questions. The Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Division at the Ministry of Health, and the clinic administrators and nurses at the two sites were very supportive and assisted me a lot – a big tangio tumas to them all!

Preliminary findings of this study showed that young people and men do not equally access the services as the married women. Although they may want to know more about family planning and information relating to sexual and reproductive health. Therefore to better understand this phenomena, I hope to expand my study to a third site (a remote setting) at a health centre in Isabel Province to compare family planning services at an urban, rural and remote context in Solomon Islands.

This study will enable me to develop and recommend strategies that come from Solomon Islands by a Solomon Islander for improved family planning service provision in Solomon Islands.

For more information, please email:

Photo: Family planning clinics in Solomon Islands, and an example of contraception distribution at an urban clinic.

Rick Speare Memorial Fund Call for Applications

Late Emeritus Professor Rick Speare

Emeritus Professor Rick Speare was a Foundation Member of the Atoifi Health Research Group. The Atoifi Health Research Group is made up of health professionals, health researchers and community members committed to a grass roots ‘learn by-doing’ approach to research. The Rick Speare Memorial Fund was established to continue Professor Speare’s legacy and support ongoing research activity through the Atoifi Health Research Group.

The Rick Speare Memorial Fund
In 2020, the Rick Speare Memorial Fund will provide funding of up to AUD5,000 (approximately SBD25,000) for a health-related project in the East Kwaio region of Malaita, Solomon Islands. The health project can be hospital or community-based. The project can take up to 12 months to complete and must address a health issue of importance to the East Kwaio region. The project must also have clear objectives, methods and outcomes and have direct community and health impact. The project must build capacity for health projects into the future.

To download the Rick Speare Memorial Fund application for 2020, please visit:


For further information contact Dr Kerry Kelly: or Luke Speare: