Over the past year or so, we have been talking with some of our partners in the Pacific about helping Pacific Island Nations to improve their capacity to respond to the COVID19 pandemic -- but also to support them with their ability to manage the existing neglected tropical diseases in the region, including Dengue Fever and Malaria.
What these three diseases all have in common, is that tracking who has and doesn't have the disease (or symptoms of the disease) can be really helpful at stopping the chain of transmission. If this is all sounding strangely familiar in our post-COVID19 world, that's because it is quite similar to the trace and quarantine approach that Australia and NZ have taken with great success -- enabled by being relatively small island nations able to control their borders.
This approach doesn't work for all countries, however, e.g., with very large dense populations and porous borders. However, that is not the case for Pacific Island Nations: The natural advantages of Australia and NZ were able to leverage are greatly amplified for most Pacific Island Nations, as they have relatively few international passenger movements, a very wide moat called the Pacific Ocean, and even within most of these countries, large distances between adjacent islands and communities, that further enable natural quarantining, without great inconvenience.
Where the challenge lies for these nations is that their relatively small economies and lower levels of development and logistical adversities make it difficult to build these kind of public health tracking and situation awareness gathering tools.
We developed Succinct Data back in about 2012 with NZ Red Cross precisely to be able to provide this kind of functionality, and we now have a sprint of effort to attempt to resurrect that system, and get it operational for use in the Pacific by the end of 2021. The process of doing this will be documented in blog posts over coming weeks.