The pandemic arrived late in the Pacific.
While the rest of the world grappled with surging cases, these remote island nations could only watch and wait. Sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Solomons’ 992 islands were safely sealed off from the rest of the world for more than two years.
When Covid cases started to surface in January this year, the country’s tally rose from zero to 100 cases in less than 12 hours. And within two days, 50 nurses at the Solomon Islands' largest hospital had tested positive.
Given the country’s remoteness and the fragility of the health system, coupled with an uneasy peace after violent riots late last year, Solomon Islanders feared the arrival of Covid-19 on their sandy shores.
Save the Children has been working in the Solomon Islands for over 36 years. Since the pandemic started, we’ve been working tirelessly to keep kids safe and help families bolster their resilience.
Keeping our hands clean of Covid
Good hand hygiene sounds like the simplest way to control Covid-19. But without access to running water, many communities in the Solomon Islands are struggling. Access to water has never been more critical.
To help address this, Save the Children is getting water tanks to the hardest to reach and most vulnerable communities and schools in the Solomon Islands. Our teams often have to take to the high seas to make sure these remote communities have clean drinking water and public handwashing stations.
Now that schools have re-opened after an extended lockdown, we’ve been building handwashing stations where the smallest Solomon Islanders can easily reach them.
Between the riots and Covid-19, students have endured up to seven months of learning from home.
Rose is a student from an inland community in Malaita province. She’s excited to leap back into learning following the closures and was one of the first students to try out the new tap we installed at her school.
Pikinini pitch in
By now we know that children need support to understand the pandemic. They might already have lots of ideas about Covid-19 but can get easily confused when sorting through what is fact, fiction and still unknown.
But kids listen to other kids - and it’s no different in the Solomon Islands. That’s why we enlisted some little pikininis to get the word out about Covid-19. Mary (10), says, “we children can also help stop the spread of Coronavirus,” going on to list the best ways to stay safe.
“Coronavirus doesn’t have feet. We spread [it] when we move around,” she explains.
Growing food security
Covid-19 has isolated communities and threatened food security in the Solomon Islands, forcing the closure of critical shipping routes. Many people have turned to what they know best – the land and the sea.
Florence, a mother of three, depends on what she catches and grows to feed her family. She also makes a small income selling surplus produce from her garden.
When Covid-19 came to her small island community, she and her neighbours couldn’t access local markets and struggled to get the resources they needed.
“It is quite difficult to get materials or seeds to plant vegetables and other food crops during this time,” she says.
With the support of the Australian Government, Save the Children provided vegetable seeds to Florence’s community to improve food security. The seeds were coupled with lessons on backyard farming and tips for maintaining a nutritious diet.
We also sent wood to help build a big community garden. Young people were key in setting up the new space.
“We gathered the youth in our community, and we built a nursery where we planted seeds. When the seeds were old enough, people from the community took them and planted them in their own gardens,” Florence says, holding her recently harvested eggplants.
Florence is thankful for Save the Children’s support, saying “young people in the community have also participated in looking after the nursery and have learnt a lot of new skills.”
A new Covid-normal
As the people of the Solomon Islands brace themselves for more waves of Covid variants, we’ll be there to help make sure children and families are as safe as possible.
Together with the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), we’re scaling up our support to get water tanks into schools and let students know the importance of good hand hygiene. Access to clean water will not only help encourage children to go to school, but make sure they’re safe while they’re there.
The Solomon Islands are charting their own course to a new covid-normal, like all countries everywhere. We’ll be there every step of the way to make sure our Pacific neighbours don’t get left behind.
All of us together, against Covid-19.
Source: Media Release