As a nation comprising around 80 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, Vanuatu is a fascinating place. The capital city, Port Vila, is also the economic and commercial center of the nation and lies on the island of Efate. Vanuatu’s population, currently just under 320,000, is growing rather quickly with an average rate of 2.4% per year. Because of this, both domestic and international efforts are ongoing to improve health care in Vanuatu. The goal is to provide adequate medical care to those who live across the country’s many islands.
5 Current Developments in Health Care in Vanuatu
- Strengthening the Subnational Health Care Sector – UNICEF has implemented a new program in the Malampa province of Vanuatu, which includes three islands and has a population of approximately 43,000 people. The program aims to enhance the subnational healthcare sector at the provincial level by improving both preventive and curative care. UNICEF is also supporting the enhancement of the quality and efficiency of health services while focusing on maternal, child and newborn care.
- World Health Organization (WHO) Policy Objectives – WHO has partnered closely with Vanuatu’s government to support improving health services. The WHO’s National Sustainable Development Plan 2016–2030 outlines four key objectives that will be supported throughout the duration of the plan: ensuring Vanuatu has a fair distribution of health care services and facilities, reducing incidences of disease, encouraging healthy lifestyles and behaviors, and strengthening health care management capacity and services.
- Vanuatu’s Commitment to Universal Health Care – Vanuatu’s Health Sector Strategy 2021–2030, a guiding document created by the country’s government, outlines a commitment to creating a universal health care plan. The potential universal health care plan would have a focus on primary health care, including physical, mental and social health. It would also increase access to affordable primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care and would promote community engagement in Vanuatu’s health care program.
- United Nations Humanitarian Aid – According to the United Nations (U.N.), Vanuatu is the world’s most at-risk nation for natural disasters. The U.N. has committed to providing humanitarian aid and health services to the country after Tropical Cyclone (TC) Pam placed 166,000 residents in need of urgent assistance in 2015 and TC Harold damaged 21,086 houses in 2020. The U.N.’s aid included providing clean water and sanitation, food, education and emergency shelter.
- U.S. Funding for ICU Renovations – Earlier this year, the U.S. approved funding for renovations to Vanuatu’s primary referral hospital, Vila Central Hospital (VCT). Currently, the hospital is not equipped with the materials needed to provide intensive care to patients. The U.S. funding will provide for a renovation at VCT that will create a two-bed isolation room and a four-bed ICU.
Improvements in healthcare in Vanuatu can potentially promote equality and unity in health services across all its islands, regardless of whether citizens live in large cities or small rural towns. With support from global organizations and leaders, and a commitment from the government of Vanuatu, the island nation has experienced economic growth and improved quality of life for its residents.
– Tristan Weisenbach