New boats for Vanuatu Ministry of Health will help extend reach of malaria response to remote communities

March 9, 2023

The hand-over was officiated by the acting Director General, Ms. Judith Melsul and Programme Manager for Multi-Country Western Pacific Programme Funded by the Global Fund, Ms. Gayane Tovmasyan.

Port Vila, Vanuatu – Six new fiberglass boats have been delivered to the Vanuatu Ministry of Health by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), giving a boost to ongoing efforts to eliminate malaria in remote regions of the country. 

In recent decades, significant reductions have been achieved in the incidence of malaria across the country, however, transmission continues in certain locations. Recent upsurges have been reported in Sanma, Malampa, Shefa and Torba provinces.  

The rugged geography of Vanuatu, with its more than 80 islands and over 2,500km of coastline, combined with a predominantly rural population, make the universal provision of public health services challenging. 

The strengthening of transport and logistics is a priority of the Ministry of Health’s Malaria Control Programme and is being actively supported by UNDP. The new seven-meter-long boats will enable teams to visit remote island communities in the provinces that are only accessible by small vessel sea transport.

The boats will be used by teams to transport and distribute long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets, conduct indoor residual spraying, undertake supervisory visits to local health facilities, complete monthly health information system reports, and perform case-based surveillance and response in areas with ongoing malaria transmission. 

Furthermore, the vessels will help to transport other essential health commodities, including medicines and diagnostics, to provincial health centers, and be used as part of health emergency and disaster responses. 

The boats are officially being handed over to the Ministry of Health at a ceremony on 8 March 2023 in Port Vila. 

“In many of these areas there are no roads – so sea transport is the only option,” said Ministry of Health Director General, Judith Melsul. “People living along the coastline and also in the nearby mountainous terrain will now have greater access to not only malaria but also other universal health services.”

Photo: UNDP

“Access to these health services will contribute to the promotion of good health and well-being in our communities, and also have a positive socioeconomic impact,” she added. 

Procurement of the boats was supported through the Malaria-Free Vanuatu Programme, which is supported by the Global Fund and implemented by UNDP in collaboration with the Vanuatu Ministry of Health. 

The Malaria-Free Vanuatu Programme contributes to the achievement of the National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination 2021-2026, which has goals of reducing local transmission to zero in all provinces by the end of 2023 and achieving malaria-free status by 2026. It contributes to this approach through the provision of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets, enhancing malaria case management and support to building a resilient and sustainable health system with a focus on health information management and human resource capacity.

“Building resilient and sustainable health systems is essential if we are to end malaria as a threat to public health,” said Gayane Tovmasyan, Programme Manager at UNDP. “By delivering these boats, together with other targeted and strategic support, we are helping Vanuatu move closer to its goal of completely eliminating malaria. UNDP is a steadfast partner in this endeavor.”

Other key partners engaged in Vanuatu’s malaria response include the World Health Organization, the Australian Government, Rotarians Against Malaria, the Vanuatu Red Cross Society, the Provincial Governments and Save the Children.

This week’s ceremony also recognized the urgent provision of information technology equipment to the Ministry of Health in 2022 by another UNDP initiative, the Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project, in connection with the implementation of the ongoing National Vaccination Programme against COVID-19. The equipment, which included a replacement primary printer and desktop computers, were used in support of efforts to reach full vaccination of the eligible population. 

The UNDP funding support for computers and printing capacity also strengthens personal data collection that underpins the National ID Card initiative, which is being employed in the roll-out of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. There is considerable potential, as ID Card coverage is strengthened, to use the ID Card for future vaccination programmes as well as for health planning and reporting. Currently 93 percent of Ni-Vanuatu hold an ID Card.

For more information:
Donald Wouloseje, Country Coordinator, UN Development Programme; email: