Saula Matakarawa

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Hi, I am Saula from Fiji. I am doing my Ma in Health Sciences (Environmental Health) in conjunction with MBC. My research concerns "Gold Mining and Acute Respiratory Infection in Children under 5 years at Vatukoula, Fiji". The focus of this study is to find out whether gold mining at Vatukoula has an impact on the incidence of acute respiratory infection (ARI) amongst children under 5 years living in close proximity to the mine. To be able to effectively assess this impact, a control site (non-exposed to gold mining) has been selected, where children under the same age group would also undergo the same retrospective observation. Observation results of the two groups will then be analysed and compared to assess the impact of gold mining on ARI.

I chose this topic due to its importance to public health and especially environmental health which is my speciality. The environment which sustains human life and health has been under immense pressure from anthropogenic activities. While more emphasis is on climate change nowadays, the immediate impact of localized air pollution on human health should not be overlooked. The acute respiratory infection has been on top of the list of Infectious Diseases and has continued to increase over the past one and half decades in Fiji. Understanding the risk factors of ARI is vital in ensuring evidence-based policy approach for its prevention. No study has been identified locally in Fiji that highlight the impact of gold mining processes on the incidence of ARI. Also, less emphasis has been placed on the assessment of health impacts of developments such as mining. Environmental Impact Assessment, the only legal tool for assessing development impacts in Fiji, has its primary role on the protection of the physical environment but plays a very limited role in full exploring health impacts. Mining and similar industries are on the rise in Fiji, therefore, the protection of human health must be the priority of concerned stakeholders.

Being part of MBC has really helped me understand what is happening in our developing Pacific Island countries. Discussions and sharing with fellow research students and my second supervisor and current Director of MBC, Professor Steven Ratuva gave me an insight on the wide range of issues affecting the Pacific. I am proud to be part of MBC, a centre that is contributing positively to the development of the Pacific through research works, which are needed to guide policy making.