Tuesday 2 September 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Apia –
The burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on small island developing states (SIDS) is well documented. Sadly it does not look like it will get better anytime soon. Thousands of people prematurely lose their lives to NCDs each year and thousands more lives are affected adversely, either directly or indirectly.
In some Pacific SIDS, deaths from NCDs are causing life expectancy to plateau or even decrease. The figures for NCDs are so high and quoted so often they are losing their ‘shock’ value and the response is often not proportional to the effects. There seems to be some truth in the quote that while ‘one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic’.
In an environment where NCDs have been declared a crisis that threatens Pacific SIDS achieving their development goals, a ‘business as usual’ approach is not enough. Yes, a lot has been done but a lot more needs to be done.
At the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa, the Pacific NCD Partnership for a Multi-sector Approach to Prevent and Control NCDs was launched by the President of Palau and current chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Hon. Tommy Remengesau, who said the Partnership ‘aims to strengthen and coordinate the necessary capacity and expertise to support Pacific SIDS to significantly progress the prevention and control of NCDs’. The President encouraged ‘exploring SIDS-to-SIDS sharing of experiences’.
‘The challenge is the translation of political commitment and leadership to results on the ground,’ said Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). ‘We have been busy but we are not accomplishing enough. We are trying to change the course of a cruise ship with a wooden paddle.’
Partners that have agreed to the Partnership include Pacific SIDS (as endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, Pacific Forum Economic Ministers and Health Ministers, and Pacific Islands Permanent Missions to the United Nations), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, the NCD Alliance, New Zealand Aid Programme, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association, SPC, United Nations Development Programme, US Department of State, World Bank and World Health Organization.
There are no short cuts and the journey is a long one, but with the Pacific NCD Partnership, the people of the region have a better chance of halting and eventually reversing the NCD crisis. After all, every death is a tragedy, every loss a mother, father, sister or brother.