Considering alternative means of work to stop or reduce illnesses that are preventable
A couple of weeks ago, I cited a story which had appeared in one of the Solomon Islands newspapers relating to a story about a street cleaner in Honiara complaining about the amount of litter being disposed on public streets.
The cleaner mentioned it was sole destroying to see the streets littered again after spending her previous working day employed in part-time manual work facilitated by the Rapid Employment Project.
I was aware of the Rapid Employment Project that was initiated in 2010, but I seem to recall it was expected to terminate in 2015.
I can only presume that the REP was extended.
If that is the case and the REP continues to be financed by the World Bank and the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), supported by AusAID and the New Zealand Government, then it presumably still helps to benefit about 7,500 people, with at least 50 percent being youths, and with support for equal gender participation.
With such perceptions in mind, I wonder to what extent the REP might be made more inclusive to benefit those that are dependent for a living on selling betel nuts, and whether those convicted by the courts for selling illegal ‘kwaso’ might be required to be engaged by the REP to wean them off illegal brewing and selling unlawful alcohol that poses serious health risks?
I am conscious of the fact that many families struggle to make ends meet and need to get ‘fast cash sales’ that are obtained from kwaso and from selling betel nuts.
I do not condone the brewing and selling of kwaso, but do understand that to eliminate the illegal practice there needs to be some lawful means of making money.
In the same kind of situation, although not illegal, betel nut sellers are providing nuts that have addictive substances with many more harmful effects than benefits, including a primary cause of mouth and throat cancer.
Ok, I hear one say, betel nut has a long history and the habit of chewing betel nut has been passed down through generations in the Solomons for centuries and is a time-honoured custom.
While betel nut is an important cultural and social tradition, there is increasing evidence that its use points to serious health effects from regular use.
All that I have written today accords with my concern for the health and well-being of Solomon Islanders and in keeping with my previous missives on preventative medicine.
I know the UNDP supports many programmes, and incorporates in its Mission, enhancing people’s well-being and livelihoods.
This fact raises in my mind to what extent the UNDP via the GEF Small Grants Scheme might provide financial support to wean off the wholesale selling of betel nuts and aid the Solomon Islands courts in providing alternative work for those convicted of brewing and selling kwaso.
Alternatively, to what extent, if any, the backers of the REP might consider doing the same?
Considering that preventative health measures are increasingly necessary to reduce the burden on the MOMS and on the government’s limited finances, it would make sense to minimise the risks to public health.