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Overseas Pacific Communities Prepare For COVID-19

While many Pacific nations are not experiencing large COVID-19 case numbers, local community groups are already mobilizing to prevent and prepare for the growing pandemic.

One such group is the Kiribati Health Champions, comprised of women and young adults who have spent the last 18 months delivering nutrition training in Kiribati’s capital atoll of Tarawa and some of the nation’s outer islands. As the threat of the pandemic grows in the region, a group of 31 Health Champions briefed by the Kiribati Public Health Service are now building awareness about virus transmission and prevention techniques throughout Tarawa’s densely populated communities.

In Papua New Guinea, a long-term volunteer stationed in Papua New Guinea is working closely with the Diocese of Rabaul and the Vunapope Hospital to support community prevention activities. The Social Empowerment and Education Programme (SEEP) in Suva, Fiji is delivering key messaging and hygiene products to ten villages which would otherwise receive limited resources.

These initiatives are supported by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Catholic humanitarian agency. Caritas works with several grassroots organisations across the Pacific and around the world to assist development and emergency response efforts. Their long-standing relationships with these communities allow them to act quickly to respond to local needs in the face of the growing pandemic.

“While there aren’t many reported COVID-19 cases in the Pacific, we know that the pandemic spreads rapidly in the kinds of places and events which are so important to families and communities in our region,” says Caritas Director Julianne Hickey. “Right now, we are working with our local partners in these communities to share public health messages and prevent the spread of the disease.”

Most communities are focused on conveying consistent public health messaging, raising awareness of personal hygiene and virus transmission, gathering emergency resources and distributing life-saving sanitation supplies. Caritas is currently supporting COVID-19 prevention and response activities led by 13 organisations in 10 countries, mainly in the Pacific, through funds raised by their Pandemic Appeal. Donations are accepted online at caritas.org.nz or by phone at 0800 22 10 22.

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