As the whole world is battling COVID-19, the Marshall Islands is still faced with a Dengue Fever outbreak that started on the atoll of Ebeye in July 2019, before spreading into densely-populated Majuro which continues to be afflicted. “We had eight disease outbreaks last year, this is something we haven’t seen before,” Mr Niedenthal, the country’s Health Secretary told Radio New Zealand in January this year. In the same interview he added: “Our outer island facilities, most of them don’t have electricity or the means to do blood counts, so we have to medivac them [to Majuro] at great expense.”
This is were Okeanos Marshall Islands stepped in mid last year starting to assist the Department of Health (DOH) to provide a reliable service at reasonable costs. Since then, regular trips have been undertaken to surrounding atolls to support the important work of of the Department of Health (DOH) including
- Outreach awareness
- TB checks
- medical check up’s
- cancer screening
- vector control
Dr. Aina Garstang, public health physician and clinical director for the nurse practitioner intern-training program travelled on the Okeanos Vaka beginning of February 2020 to Maloelap and Aur Atoll to conduct medical check up’s on some patients. At the same time vector control to combat Dengue Fever was carried out on the small island of Taroa which lays within the Maloelap Atoll.
The team of nurse practitioners prefer to use Okeanos as a safe and low carbon emission option of travelling. All necessary medical supplies including consumables and can be taken on board which is impossible if travelling by plane. After a long day of work the health care team relax and sleep at night either below deck when sailing to the next destination or even sleep on deck enjoying the sea breeze whilst on anchor.
Article by Christine Biesgen, Head of Operations at Okeanos, July 2020