The Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete was on hand to welcome the Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) that returned from Kadavu after its first domestic deployment in the wake of the recent Tropical Cyclone Sarai that affected Fiji from December 27-30 2019.

A 23 member team left for Kadavu last Friday on board the Government medical boat MV Veivueti and attended to the health needs of the affected population while the support staff attended to health facility repairs at Kavala and Vunisea.

In May 2019, Fiji became the 9th country in the world and the first small island developing nation to attain the World Health Organization International Emergency Medical Team (EMT) verification for an International Verified EMT.

After demonstrating its capabilities through a field hospital setup as well as passing a comprehensive assessment by WHO, FEMAT was verified as a Type 1 Fixed EMT that can be deployed to the Pacific region.

Minister Waqainabete thanked the team for their timely response as the objective was tailored to address the needs of the country such as disasters.

“I am happy to say after the verification of the FEMAT team, we have within the Ministry the capacity and capability to respond to natural disasters and this is a proud moment for us,” he added.

During the week-long deployment to Kadavu, FEMAT managed to conduct 154 patient consultations, 7 surgeries (3 major; 4 minor), 2 medevacs and 5 cases were brought to Suva for further care.

The FEMAT that was deployed to Kadavu were divided into two teams – one team was operating within Vunisea Hospital and the other was operating onboard the MV Veivueti berthed at Kavala bay.

A strong focus of the deployment was on public health interventions and public health risk mitigation through community visits, awareness and education.

Environmental Health Officers in the team inspected villages and communities and also conducted disease surveillance, spraying and disinfection.

They also inspected food outlets for food safety. The team conducted assessments on water quality and distributed 56 WASH Kits, 260 hand washing soaps and 1007 purification tablets to affected communities.

Nutritional assessments were also undertaken for vulnerable children as well as for adults to ensure that food and nutritional security is intact for the people of Kadavu.

A team of carpenters had also been dispatched to conduct minor repairs to the roofing of the health facilities in Vunisea and at Kavala Health Centre that had sustained damage.

FEMAT has included Empower Pacific counsellors in its team for psychological and mental health support.

A total of 22 counselling cases were provided with dignity kits also distributed by the counsellors.

Minister Waqainabete met the returning team at the Government Wharf, Walu Bay early this morning to traditionally welcome them.

A debriefing was conducted with Ministry officials, NDMO, WHO and partners, where FEMAT team leaders were advised on achievements, challenges and recommendations for the way forward.

Up to 85 per cent of the people on Kadavu were visited by the FEMAT team. A small health team still remains on Vunisea supporting the local staff to achieve a 100 per cent coverage of the people of Kadavu.

Minister Waqainabete in acknowledging NDMO, Government Shipping and partner agencies said that FEMAT will continuously strive to improve its emergency and disaster response and it was a great achievement to have successfully deployed for the first time and serve the people of Fiji.

The next FEMAT deployment is for Southern Lau that leaves yesterday.

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