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Solomons first country in the world to complete a Mass Drug Administration for scabies

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Health Permanent Secretary Mrs. Pauline McNeil delivering her remarks at the event.
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Solomon Islands is the first country in the world to complete a Mass Drug Administration for scabies, which was successfully delivered by the National Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Department of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS). Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis).

The MHMS Permanent Secretary Mrs Pauline McNeil celebrated the significant achievement in Honiara on 27 September with project partners namely the Macquarie Foundation, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Speaking at the event, Mrs. McNeil said the Mass Drug Administration was a huge achievement for the country and congratulated the NTD Department and the collaborative partners for the historical achievement. She hailed the importance of strategic partnerships in fulfilling the vision of preventing diseases and improving health and wellbeing in Solomon Islands.

Mrs. McNeil said the Ministry aims to increase the coverage and reach of public health programs and services in line with the National Health Strategic Plan 2022-2031, and the NTD program demonstrated that this could be done, hence the historical achievement. She said the program has stepped up and progressed immensely despite the challenges the Ministry has faced in recent years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.Mrs McNeil acknowledged the Macquarie Foundation for financing the first round of the Mass Drug Administration rollout with funding support of AUD$10 million dollars (SBD53 million). Health Secretary as further acknowledged the Australian Government for committing SBD14. 8 million to support the second round of the Mass Drug Administration for scabies planned in 2024.

The representative from the Australia High Commission, Health Senior Program Manager, Ms. Zina Fefera congratulated Solomon Islands for the achievement of becoming the first country in the world to complete a mass drug administration for scabies.

“This accomplishment, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, sets an example not only for the Pacific region but for the entire world – you should all be immensely proud of this achievement”, said Ms. Fefera.

She thanked the Macquarie Foundation in Australia for its generous funding support to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which has played a pivotal role in supporting the scabies projects in Solomon Islands and in Fiji.

“The success of the first round of mass drug administration is a testament to the dedication and combined efforts of all the partners involved. We are pleased to witness the significant reduction in scabies prevalence and the positive impact this has had on the well-being of the men, women and children of Solomon Islands”, said Ms. Fefera.

She said the Australian Government is committed to building upon the achievements of the first scabies mass drug administration by funding a second round in 2024.

Meanwhile, both Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and Macquarie Foundation representations congratulated the Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Disease Division – through the World Scabies Program Solomon Islands for the massive achievement and pledged their continuous support towards the second MDA for scabies in the country.

Dr Susie Lake, Program Lead for the World Scabies Program said that an initial prevalence survey in 2021 found that 23% of Solomon Islanders had scabies. The recently completed MDA and the second-round next year should reduce the prevalence of the disease and improve the health of all Solomon Islanders. “Solomon Islands are leaders in the control of scabies. Without the support of all partners working together under the strong leadership and guidance of the MHMS this would not have been possible. We also thank the hardworking health-workers who delivered the medicines in every province,” Dr Lake said.

Anna Le Masurier, Regional Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation, said “It has been a privilege to partner with the World Scabies Program. During my time in Honiara, I’ve also been delighted to observe the commitment, learning and logistics required to roll out the MDA which will inform future learnings around the world”.

“Together with the valuable support of the MHMS and the Australian Government the goal of eliminating scabies will soon result in healthier communities in Solomon Islands”, Le Masurier concluded.

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