DEAR EDITOR, looking at the Asia Development Banks (ADB) operational strategy for partnership with the Solomon Islands till 2020 I see the overall plan is to help the Solomon Islands with transport infrastructure assistance, to help with improved internet connectivity by providing power to provincial centres and asset management, all reportedly relevant in the context of development challenges, government priorities, and the division of labour among development partners.
In terms of the ADB’s country operations plan (COBP) till 2019 the COPB will support three sectors: energy, public sector management and transport in the Solomons.
Noting that ADB assistance both overall and in terms of the COPB is guided and relevant to SIG priorities I am somewhat disappointed that there is nothing envisaged to support the delivery of health services in the Solomon Islands, especially health service delivery by rehabilitating rural healthcare infrastructure, improving the availability of medical supplies, supporting new health partnerships, and using smart technologies to support digital information systems.
With such concerns in mind, it came as a surprise, today, to read that The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a total financing package of $195 million to support the delivery of accessible, affordable, and high-quality health services in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Quoting Radio New Zealand this is what I read of the aid assistance: “The delivery of accessible, affordable, and high-quality health services in Papua New Guinea is the target of an Asian Development Bank finance package.
“The ADB Board of Directors has approved a total financing package of $US195 million to support PNG’s efforts towards achieving universal health coverage
“The ADB Health Specialist for the Pacific said PNG’s poor health outcomes are the result of deteriorating healthcare services caused by volatile and unpredictable health financing as well as weaknesses in government systems and in health sector capacities.
“Inez Mikkelsen-Lopez said this program builds on the Bank’s long-term engagement in PNG in the health sector.
“Deficiencies in health sector governance, weak public financial management, and fragmented funds flows will also be addressed.
The financing package is comprised of two regular loans worth $100 million and $45.10 million and a $49.90 million concessional loan-all sourced from ADB’s ordinary capital resources balance sheet-to help PNG’s efforts in achieving universal health coverage.
“In a statement, the ABD said despite a period of high economic growth in recent years, averaging 6% annually from 2006-2015, PNG failed to achieve its targets for the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child health.
“Limited investments in the country’s health infrastructure as well as suboptimal health sector governance also undermine service delivery.
“The Health Services Sector Development Program combines a policy-based operation and project financing to support critical sector reforms and investments in PNG, enabling the long-term sustainability and effective use of the country’s health sector financing.
“The program will support the implementation of an integrated public health model linking primary and secondary health facilities in rural areas to improve patient health outcomes.
“It will also support decentralized health service delivery by focusing on capacity building of staff at the sub-national level in public financial management and reporting to better plan and budget.”
While the ADB views the SIG’s key development challenge as (quote) “Controlling recurrent expenditure amid modest growth in revenues. The economy is based on primary commodities, and alternative opportunities to generate income are scarce. Economic growth prospects rest on the private sector and on developments in mining, agriculture, and fishing, with some potential for tourism.”
Given such a development challenge it is inherent that the Solomon Islands also, like PNG, has deficiencies in health care as manifest in recent reports about drugs shortages at the National Rural Hospital (NRH), alleged shortages of equipment and facilities there, and to say nothing about the poor state of the country’s rural health clinics and the fact that many communities across the country are experiencing great difficulties in accessing basic medical care.
I am aware of the many ADB’s country strategies and business plans in the Solomon Island, both current and past, but am not aware of any support for the ailing health sector. If that is the real situation then I pose the question why not?