The real challenge to meeting SDG targets in the Solomon Islands – NCDs

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DEAR EDITOR, last week saw the launching of the Solomon Islands Youth Status Report 2018

I welcome this initiative and very much hope to see much greater-youth-political participation than I have observed over the last two decades in the Solomon Islands.

During the launching of the official report, the Hon. Minister for Women Youth Children and Family Affairs, Ms Freda Tuki, said as Solomon Islands was embarking on a new set of SDG’s and a national development strategy, it was important to recognise young people’s roles as key stakeholders in achieving such goals.

She added today’s young generation would inherit and drive the future development of Solomon Islands.

Also speaking at the launching ceremony for the Solomon Islands Status Report 2018, Ms. Azusa Kubota, the United Nations Development Programme (Solomon Islands) Country Manager, was quoted as having said, “If the nation wants to boost its economy, foster positive change and meet the 17 SDGs which are aimed at bringing prosperity to all by 2030; then it must engage youth politics and youth civic participation.”

Ms Kubota was also understood to have said the UNDP under the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund Project in Solomon Islands was currently working to provide platforms for dialogue and empowerment to help youth across the country act as agent of change.

I very much look forward to being able to witness better employment opportunities resulting in jobs and the engagement of youths in politics and civic participation which, as I have mentioned, has not been evident for far too long.

Ms Kubota particularly mentioned the greater participation of youths in helping to meet the 17 Solomon Islands Development Goals (SIDG) by 2030.

While I agree with what Ms Kubata has said about youth participation in relation to the SIDG targets for 2030, I have to say that a very much bigger obstacle in reaching the targets lies in the fact that substantial challenges remain in the prevention and control of infectious diseases and NCDs, and in urban and environmental health.

According to the United Nations (UN) Solomon Islands has among the highest rates of malaria incidence, of mortality attributed to exposure to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, and of mortality attributed to unintentional poisoning, compared to other countries in the Region.

Speaking at a press conference in Honiara last year, the National Advisor for Non Communicable Diseases, Dr Geoff Kenilorea, reportedly said non communicable diseases like diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks were increasing. He also said two-thirds of beds at the National Referral Hospital were then taken up by patients with non-communicable diseases.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70 percent of all deaths worldwide.

Almost three quarters of all NCD deaths, and 82% of the 16 million people who died prematurely, or before reaching 70 years of age, occur in low- and middle-income countries. The rise of NCDs has been driven by primarily four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.

At home real challenges remain in service capacity and access and in infectious disease and non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention and control, specifically in lowering blood pressure levels, tobacco use and access to improved sanitation.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short