With the Pacific region being most vulnerable to health security risk brought by climate change, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) has been emphasized as a means to organize, deliver and finance health services in a way that will avoid financial hardship, in the region.

“Indeed, the health status of the Pacific people have improved remarkably over the last 20 years, however, the progress has been slower compared to other parts of the world and there is a risk that the Pacific may even be failing behind,” said Minister for Health and Medical Services, Hon. Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete.

He noted this while opening the 2019 Regional Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN) meeting in Nadi, where regional health stakeholders are convened.

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“UHC is intended to build an efficient and resilient health system, create an affordable care and a system of financing health care that doesn’t impoverish users, access to essential medicines and technologies, health workers who are motivated and sufficient in numbers and skills, efficient, functional administrative and governance arrangements and transparency in tracking progress and achieving equity.”

Dr Waqainabete noted the Pacific’s impact from five intense tropical cyclones in the past five years, and the outbreak of arboviral diseases and non-communicable diseases straining under-resourced health systems.

“The challenges are plentiful but not insurmountable. There is a fresh impetus through renewed focus on neglected tropical diseases such as arboviral diseases and zoonotic diseases such as leptospirosis through global and regional declarations and boosted responses.” He commended the use of the Wolbachia bacteria as new ammunition to fight Aedes-borne viruses.

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Fiji became the first Pacific island country to partner with the World Mosquito Program and release Wolbachia bacteria-carrying mosquito, with Vanuatu, Kiribati and New Caledonia following suit.