The Australian High Commission office in Samoa have announced the relaunching of the Australian Volunteers Program in Samoa after Covid-19 border lockdowns hade forced the program to be temporarily suspended in 2020.
The Ministry of Health has welcomed its first in-country volunteer; an Epidemiologist and Public Health specialist who will serve with the Ministry’s Climate Change and Health Unit.
Ms Jennifer Rodger will work closely with Victoria Ieremia-Faasili, the Principal Officer for the Climate Change and Health Unit at the Ministry of Health in providing support on climate change and health research, as well as building resilient health programs.
Samoa’s Deputy Director General of Hospital and Clinical Services, Dr Glenn Atoa Fatupaito said Ms Rodger will contribute to Samoa’s efforts in responding to the adverse effects of climate change on health which is a key Government priority.
“As climate change continues to pose a threat to the health and security of Samoa and the region, we look forward to collaborating with volunteers such as Ms. Rodger in ensuring Samoa’s response to climate change and health is robust,” said Dr Atoa Fatupaito.
Ms. Jennifer Rodger has settled into Samoa and says she is looking forward to working closely with the team at MOH.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be able to live in Samoa and learn from my colleagues at the Ministry of Health. I hope that my small contribution will benefit the Samoan people as they continue to respond to the challenges of climate change and its effects on their health,” said Ms. Jennifer Rodger.
The Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, Her Excellency Emily Luck, says the Australian Volunteer program is one of the hallmarks of Australia’s engagement in the region.
“It offers many opportunities for our people to learn and grow together. We look forward to finding more opportunities for our people to collaborate, especially as we respond to the challenges we face together in the Blue Pacific.”
Jennifer Rodger is a Public Health Specialist who has worked on cancer research in Sydney, Australia for 13 years. She served an Australian Volunteer assignment in Cambodia in 2019-2020 and aided the Cambodian Government’s malaria elimination program. She is also a distant learning tutor with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK), with expertise in environment, health and sustainable development.
In 2020-21, the Australian Volunteer Program (AVP) in Samoa supported eight volunteers and six partner organisations, with a focus on health security and economic recovery and stability in response to COVID-19. As Samoa’s borders were closed during this period, Australian Volunteers worked remotely from Australia to support their respective partners in Samoa. The AVP aims to provide not only expertise to fill gaps as identified by host nations, but also for volunteers to gain new knowledge and skills from their host organisation.
In addition to the ‘Pathway for the Development of Samoa’, the Ministry of Health’s durrent 10-year Health Sector Plan identifies climate change and disasters as one of eight Health Sector Priorities. A key focus area of the Health Sector plan is ‘improved risk management and response to disasters, public health emergencies and climate change’.