The Minister for Health and Medical Services;
The High Commissioner of India to Fiji, His Excellency Palaniswamy Subramanyan Karthigeyan;
Honorary Director International Operations BMVSS, Jaipur, India, Ambassador Satish Mehta;
The Team from Jaipur India;
The Team Leader of the Fiji Program Support Facility;
Bula vinaka and good morning to you all.
I am very pleased to be present here today to launch this truly life-changing initiative – the Jaipur Fitment Camp Project. Six hundred Fijians living with an amputation are about to receive a new lease on life as they get specially fitted with custom prosthesis.
I recall that the Jaipur Team first set foot on our shores back in 2011 when my Government had paid to have them flown here to fit 314 amputee patients with specialized prosthesis.
As the Covid-19 pandemic consumed health systems around the world however, including our own, people requiring prosthetics were unable to access regular services. At the end of March this year, one hundred Fijian amputee patients were waiting for a prosthesis.
Noting that the surge in demand placed a heavy burden on our recovering health system, the Government of India stepped in to support.
In addition, the Australian Government has stepped in to cover additional costs. They have also renovated the National Council for Disability Complex in Labasa.
We do not take their generosity for granted and continue to cherish our strong partnerships.
Today, I am told that 636 amputees will benefit from this project – a remarkable number. This includes 164 above knee amputees; 447 below knee amputees; 15 below elbow; and 10 bilateral lower limb amputees.
For these patients, life is about to change dramatically. A professionally fitted prosthetic can boost feelings of self-esteem, self-worth, and dignity; provide hope for a brighter future; counter feelings of depression and raise the standard of living for people living with a disability.
That, to me, is priceless. They will also regain much of their independence as they are able to once more be productive within their homes and communities; many will be able to return to work to continue earning a living for their families and contribute to the Fijian economy.
This project is aligned with Fiji’s Disability Inclusive Health and Rehabilitation Action Plan, which put simply is built on my Government’s strongest commitment to leave no one behind.
My friends, I want to speak frankly about the reason many of these procedures are required, which is due to complications from NCDs. This is a health crisis that is devastating Pacific countries. Yet for all the coverage we’ve seen of COVID-19, we do not talk nearly enough as a society about NCDs –– the silent killer and maimer of our citizens.
I have been sharing my journey towards a healthier lifestyle with my friends and social media followers –– including my walks and the healthier foods I’m choosing to eat. I want to take this opportunity to urge our people to make more of the good choices that keep us healthy. Eat fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables. Exercise when you can. Encourage the same of your friends and family.
I feel it is only right that we mark today by re-doubling our efforts to address the root causes of our NCD crisis. But today is still a victory, and I am extremely proud that we can offer these fittings in Fiji to those who need them. I very much look forward to meeting some of my fellow Fijians here today and listening to how they have benefitted from this project.
Before I conclude, I wish to express my gratitude once more to the Governments and people of India and Australia. On behalf of every Fijian, Vinaka Vakalevu!
I wish the Jaipur Team safe travels around the country and wish all the patients who will be receiving a prosthetic the very best of health.
Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you. God Bless you all.