Malaria in Pacific populations: seen but not heard?
Most Pacific Island countries are located in the tropics, where there is an abundance of mosquitoes with the potential to carry debilitating or life-threatening vector-borne diseases. This article examines three Melanesian countries in which malaria is endemic—Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu—but the threat posed by the spread of malaria gives the issues a broader significance to the Pacific region. After discussing the spatial distribution and prevalence of malaria in the Pacific, the article examines a number of health interventions through which people have sought to control malaria. Although the disease was nearly eradicated in the Pacific in the 1970s, it is no longer in retreat. The article concludes by examining why there are still grounds for cautious optimism, and the challenges that Pacific Island countries face in reducing the impact of malaria on their populations. There is a need for prompt and concerted action on malaria at the national, regional and international levels if the public health concerns arising from the disease are to be adequately addressed.
KeywordsMalaria Mosquitoes Pacific Melanesia Spatial distribution Disease burden Traditional societies Health interventions Cross-border movement Drug resistance Climate change
The author wishes to thank Dr Christine McMurray, Dr David Brewster and two anonymous referees for their very helpful comments on a draft of this article.
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