In July 2012, Motivation Australia’s Ray Mines and consultants Huy Nguyen and Kaori Oka (ISPO Australia Outreach) carried out a feasibility study investigating the provision of Mobility Devices (wheelchairs, supportive seating and Prosthetics and Orthotics) in Vanuatu. Adding a wheelchair user’s and a Prosthetist Orthotist’s perspective to Motivation’s study team was very useful.
The team travelled to Port Vila, Luganville and Horhor Community on the island of Ambrym. Following the feasibility study, a two day stakeholders workshop was held on Mobility Device Service Provision in Port Vila with participants funded to attend from other provinces.
Vanuatu is a Melanesian archipelago of 243,300 people living on 65 inhabited islands, South East of the Solomon Islands, between Australia and Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. The UN classifies Vanuatu as a Least Developed Country (LDC). The study team found that there are currently no services, with Ni-Vanuatu personnel who are trained to provide Mobility Devices, established in Vanuatu. There is also currently no continuous supply of appropriate Mobility Devices; people with mobility disabilities rely on sporadic charitable donations of a mixture of new and second-hand products from Australia and New Zealand provided through local NGOs.
The feasibility study and stakeholder workshop raised many issues around Mobility Device provision such as a geographically spread population, the team identifying the key role that CBR programmes will have in reaching rural communities on small islands far from the capital. The group discussions also raised many strengths which exist in Vanuatu, not least of all being one of the region’s first National Disability Policies. The workshop’s outcome documents demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses which exist in products, services, training and policy & planning and make recommendations for the future.
Motivation Australia is extremely grateful to everyone who contributed to making the feasibility study and stakeholder workshop possible. We would like to thank the Australian Red Cross, the Swiss Embassy to Australia and ISPO Australia for partnering with Motivation Australia in funding this activity. The study team is indebted to Tom Toswel from VSDP for accompanying them and translating throughout the interviews and visits. Finally we’d like to acknowledge all the stakeholders who took the time to tok tok with us, particularly the people with disabilities of Vanuatu.