Pacific governments, together with partners including UNICEF and the Governments of the United States, New Zealand and Japan, launched the Health Care on Air Pacific training to be aired on radio and other communication platforms for front-line healthcare workers across 14 countries.

This includes Fiji, Cook Islands, Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, Niue, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, Republic of Marshall Islands and Tokelau.

“The global spread of COVID-19 to countries and territories indicates that “a risk somewhere is a risk anywhere” and as a global village, the increasing incidence of the disease in some countries around the world is a threat to the entire Pacific. Our development partners had stood alongside us during the assault of the pandemic. Let us embrace this new development by protecting the children of our nations through empowering our front-line healthcare workers during this difficult time,” said Fiji’s Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete, who launched the training on behalf of the 14 Pacific Island countries.

One of the greatest challenges currently facing healthcare systems in the Pacific is how to provide front-line healthcare workers with training on managing COVID-19 infections when they arise, while continuing to deliver quality essential health services to the most remote and hard to reach populations.

“The majority of nurses and midwives in the Pacific are located in remote rural areas and outer islands, which means they often miss out on regular trainings and updates. These front-line health workers provide services to more than two million people, including children, across the region, and need to be equipped with the most up-to-date health knowledge and skills to deliver the best services to these communities,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett.

“This great radio program highlights the strong commitment to the region by the government of the United States of America in both preventing the spread of this deadly and costly virus, containing it where it is, assisting in its mitigation, and more importantly, helping build a more stable and secure future for the Pacific islands,” stated U.S. Ambassador to Fiji, Joseph Cella.

More than 5,000 Pacific front-line healthcare workers will now benefit from this first ever regional training, with support from WHO and the Pacific Community, to enhance the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to protect themselves and deliver the best quality services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now more than ever we need to work together as one region, sharing our skills and expertise and supporting each other to respond to, and recover from, the impacts of the global pandemic. This initiative brings together multiple partners, donors and skilled technical experts and will go a long way in sharing knowledge, learnings and building capacity across the region,” said New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, Jonathan Curr.

The training will be aired over a period of six months with a total of 33 broadcasts of 30-minutes each that aim to support governments to connect practicing nurses and midwives with the opportunity to learn, share information, and incorporate new WHO guidance on COVID-19.

Participating front-line healthcare workers will also have the opportunity to ask questions for future episodes, share learning needs and receive episode summaries through UNICEF’s RapidPro platform, which is a two-way communication system that works with free SMS and messaging apps from smartphones.

“Health Care on Air Pacific will provide frontline health workers in the Pacific with the precious knowledge, skills and confidence in a constructive and meaningful way. This is like a Pacific shield against COVID-19, in the making. I am delighted to see that Governments of Pacific Island countries and development partners including Japan, the United States, New Zealand, and UNICEF are uniting our collective strength in keeping the Pacific safe from COVID-19,” said Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan, H.E. Omura Masahiro.

The teaching and learning methodology developed for Health Care on Air Pacific will also be included in the national nursing accreditation systems for in-service professional development.