By Corinne Ambler (IFRC) and Kennedy Waitara (Solomon Islands Red Cross Society)
The Solomon Islands Red Cross Society is gearing up to support the Solomon Islands government to contain an outbreak of dengue fever, which has already killed one person and thought to have infected more than 1,700 others.
The outbreak was first declared in the capital Honiara on 8 October and then expanded to other provinces on 19 October. Cases have been reported in Honiara city, Guadalcanal, Malaita, Isabel and Choiseul provinces.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 70,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to enable the Solomon Islands Red Cross to respond to the outbreak. At least 50 volunteers are being mobilized to carry out awareness and clean-up campaigns over the next three months.
“The volunteers are all trained in emergency response, logistics and provision of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in emergencies, but will undergo a refresher training in dengue and behaviour change communication before going out into communities,” said Cameron Vudi, Community Disaster Risk Manager of the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society.
“They hope to reach almost 70,000 people at all levels of the community, targeting 30 schools as well as 40 communities with activities in public areas, markets, clinics and households,” he said.
The volunteers hope to reduce the spread of dengue by advising people on how to clean up mosquito breeding grounds and how to protect themselves,. They will be working in Guadalcanal (including Honiara), Malaita and Western provinces.
Joanne Zoleveke, Secretary General of the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society, says the National Society helped the Ministry of Health during a similar outbreak in 2013.
“With that experience and the trained volunteers in our provincial branches, we are well equipped to assist the Ministry by doing awareness on preventive measures that could help to curb the spread of the disease and reduce the risk of further deaths,” she said.
Ms Zoleveke highlighted the risk of the disease spreading with the approach of the rainy cyclone season and the upcoming Christmas holiday season which will see people moving from Honiara to the provinces.