Home Opinion Frank Short Solomon Islands- The disturbing connection between malaria and deafness. 3 min read

Solomon Islands- The disturbing connection between malaria and deafness. 3 min read

Last week His Royal Highness Prince Charles, during his brief visit to the Solomon Islands, launched the Solomon Islands Ocean Policy and Malaria Elimination Roadmap.

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It is my understanding, subject to correction, that Solomon Islands has seen a five-fold decrease in malaria cases over the past 26 years but the burden of the disease remains one of the highest outside Africa.

It is encouraging that Solomon Island’s leaders are taking positive action to rid the country of malaria once and for all.

I recall at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in London last year, the Solomon Islands re-affirmed its commitment to eliminate malaria completely by 2030

The Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services was the Principal Recipient of a Global Fund grant supporting malaria control efforts that commenced implementation in January 2015 and concluded in December 2017.

A new three-year grant of over US$ 4 million started in January 2018 and, presumably, it will be that grant that will fund the ongoing malaria control efforts envisaged in the Malaria Elimination Road Map.

I wasn’t really aware of the connection with malaria and deafness and hearing loss until I read comments by Brother George van der Zant, the head of the San Isidro Care Centre.  I recall him saying at the time he was in no doubt there were likely thousands of Solomon Islanders, particularly in the more remote regions of the country, who had lost their hearing through infections with malaria.

Brother George also commented, and I will quote:

Although there doesn’t appear to be any research to support that hypothesis, a British study published last year identifies the most deadly form of the disease, the one most prevalent in Solomon Islands, as a potential cause of hearing loss.”

It really struck home, so to say, when Brother George said.

“Deaf people (are) the most neglected of Solomon Islands’ disabled.”

I would therefore, and respectfully, pose the question what help is the Solomon Islands Government giving to aid all those suffering hearing loss and deafness?

Addressing the Solomon Island’s hearing loss challenge; I believe there should be SIG support for all with hearing loss by

·         creating awareness of their specific needs

·         advocating for their needs through timely and effective interventions that improve quality of life, including providing suitable hearing aids and teaching sign language.

·         assisting them to maintain their economic independence and social connectedness.

 With such aims in mind, I have written to two charity organizations in the United States to enquire whether, through their international services, they will consider helping those with hearing loss in the Solomon Islands.

 


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