Linking community based health and first aid to address NCDs in Te Kavato

Published: 16 September 2011 16:47 CET

Tuvalu Red Cross Society (TRCS) has been actively involved in implementing a CBHFA ‘in action’  pilot  project funded by the Shoken fund over the last 10 months. This project aims to build the National Society capacity to deliver a ‘bottom up’ community-based program that responds to the health, disaster and climate change needs of one community on Funafuti – Te Kavatoetoe.

Te Kavatoetoe is a recent settlement with approximately 500 residents, mostly migrants from the outer islands to be on the mainland in Funafuti. Funafuti Island is a small atoll and is only one metre above sea level and is faced with many problems of overcrowding, limited land and poor soil quality, making it difficult to growing fruit and vegetables. Most of the food is imported, which makes it expensive and beyond the reach of most households.

The limited land available also means that people must exercise and play sport on the airfield in the morning and evening. Those in Tekavatoetoe are particularly affected as many do not own their land and therefore cannot cultivate crops without permission of the landowner. Climatic events, exasperated by climate change such as frequent water surges, heavy rains and floods threaten their livelihoods. 

To help address these vulnerabilities TRCS staff held CBHFA volunteer training in September 2010 which included a participatory community assessment which identified non-communicable disease as one of the seven issues within the community. A development committee was established with the selection of eight respected community members to oversee the running project with technical support being provided from the TRCS.

Activities that address NCDs risk factors in this community have included setting up a weekly walking group, sporting events for the youth, home gardening workshops  that included container gardening and  composting delivered by the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result of this home gardening workshop, some households within the community started to start a home gardening competition with 13 households registering.

Fencing was provided by TRCS. A participatory evaluation this year found that overall the project was relevant and required by the community. Outcomes so far have shown that there have been some changes within the community  One man who lives just over the burrow pit where it is very hard to grow anything has managed to make a garden, has raised soil on the rocks and now has harvested his garden twice and is eating from it. He has grown paw-paw, cucumber and cabbage.

There has been a sense of empowerment among those who are involved in the project. A community development member has personally benefitted and has shown a way forward for the community. She said:  “I participated in the healthy program including fitness activities and I feel much better than before. I used to weigh 130 kilos but the last time I was weighted, I was only 84 kilos.”

Another young community volunteer is now helping run the TRCS Gym and is involved in all Red Cross activities “From the beginning of the project I was selected to be a CBHFA volunteer. From then I learned to be a Red Cross volunteer to assist the community in a lot of way. It inspired me to join the Red Cross as a volunteer to help vulnerable people especially in my community. Now I have a good knowledge of the programs running and I am always ready to take part in activities, whenever the Red Cross needs my help.”  

Some hurdles were encountered though as the project is not reaching everyone in the community. The fencing supplied rusted very quickly due to the close proximity of the households to the sea but TRCS are looking at ways to involve more community members and increase colloboration with Ministry of Agriculture to provide technical support and advice on the home gardening project.