The diverse cultures inhabiting the plethora of Oceanic islands in the Pacific Ocean interest people across the world. With over 12 million people combined living on these islands (every country excluding Australia and New Zealand), Oceania has developed small isolated farming communities into cultures that primarily thrive off mineral exports, tourism and agricultural goods. However, these communities are having difficulties providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.
Many typically consider Oceania’s island countries to be poorer nations, dependent on trade from larger nations; yet this sentiment is misleading. Despite some country’s struggling, Melanesia and Micronesia both boast low unemployment rates. Moreover, Fiji has had a 5% unemployment rate as of 2017. However, these rates of unemployment do not tell the full story.
The employment opportunities in these countries vary between the islands, although government employment typically supports most citizens. However, most of the islands have hardly any people employed in the health sector. Isolated island chains, such as the archipelago Kiribati, have smaller islands with no doctors at all. When considering that even the most remote islands have populations exceeding 50, the problem is evident; how will these people receive medical treatment?
A Rooted Problem
This problem generates a cycle for the isolated populations living on the islands. Their unhealthy diets, which primarily consists of imported non-perishables for many islanders, leave them potentially overweight and susceptible to diseases and infections. In worse news, the islands seldom have medicine available. These cultures depend on shipments from larger countries to provide medicine to their people, which usually only come every few months (or not at all).
This creates an ever-lasting problem for the native island populations because they are susceptible to infections, yet have little to no available treatment. When matters reach life-threatening circumstances, some families have no choice but to fly their loved ones off the island to a larger nation, typically New Zealand or Australia, and opt for life-saving surgery. This leads to massive medical bills which many of the poorer families on the islands may never pay off.
The NGO Solution
Community development and government action will spur the islands’ long-term change, but for now, NGOs are lending their efforts to the cause. One organization, called Sea Mercy, approaches island poverty in multiple ways, but one initiative, called FHCC, funds a two-week trip aboard a boat for volunteer physicians of various fields to sail to isolated islands and provide medical care for the people living there.
Many other NGOs, such as Pacific Islands Medical Aid, operate under similar parameters of sending volunteer physicians to the islands, providing health care, sending shipments of medicines and even teaching tactics to local nurses. Even though their stay is limited, these physicians save countless lives annually just by their timely presence. This shows that even with a small amount of available medical professionals, many Pacific Islands would have much less difficulty providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.
Looking at the Future
While these islands slowly continue to grow, increased job diversification will continue, reaching each independent land, optimistically leading to more health specialists for Oceania’s isolated families. For now, NGOs provide excellent service, saving lives and setting a global standard. With the brilliant cultural diversity of Oceania, preserving the health of these nations should sit as a top global priority.
– Joe Clark