August 18, 2021

Meet the team: Barry Pugeva

Can you introduce yourself and your role with COMBAT-AMR?

My name is Barry Pugeva, Project coordinator for COMBAT-AMR in the Solomon Islands.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) to formalise the implementation of the COMBAT-AMR project in the Solomon Islands, which also involves facilitating ethics approvals from the Solomon Islands Health Research and Ethics Review Board (SIHRERB). I’m also working with the National Medical Store, Honiara, Solomon Islands to identify a potential site or space to host an Alcohol Based Hand Rub (ABHR) facility locally. We have also been working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to commence Animal Health capacity building and training activities in the Solomon Islands.

Before joining the COMBAT-AMR project, what were you working on?

Before joining the Project, I worked at the National Health Promotion Department, Ministry of Health and Medical services as a Senior Health Promotions Officer, serving a supervisory role at the provincial level. I also volunteered my time as a founding member and advisor to the Pacific Islands Public Health Alliance, an organisation devoted to delivering strategic public health services and create supportive pathways for young graduates from the Pacific Islands in the field. The organisation was established to provide opportunities for graduates to gain experience and develop their career, by providing invaluable contributions towards improving the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve.

What initially attracted you to working in public health and your area of research?

I have passion for helping people, in ways that have a significant and positive impact on their lives. I also wanted to ensure people do not just exist but live productive, happy, and healthy lives. With the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to human and animal health on the rise, I wanted to participate in efforts to minimise its impact on the wider population. With my background in public health and the general sciences, I am interested in taking on leadership roles in advocating for and coordinate actions to mitigate the threat of AMR in my country and the region. Furthermore, there is a lot of work to be done around public health research to inform public policies, regulations and frameworks that govern our issues. It is even more challenging in under resourced settings like my country where critical issues like AMR are recognised but unattended.

Why is combatting AMR important to you?

Threat to global health security has never been more inevitable. At first, Pacific Islands Countries were considered safe, and resilient, to some extent, but COVID-19 exposes how our societies are vulnerable to health issues that can quickly turn into crisis causing disruptions to the everyday life, even at the remote corners of the region. With the rise in new diseases and illnesses, effective prevention and treatment is heavily relied upon as the solution. However, the emergence of AMR threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi. This is genuine cause for concern especially in a region that is highly susceptible and vulnerable to natural disasters and diseases – risking our small and isolated populations from being severely and fatally affected. This made AMR more a personal issue and  important to me.  

What do you see as the biggest challenges in mitigating the threat of AMR in the Pacific Islands and globally?

In the Pacific, it is the lack of resources and capacity to help identify and address the issue of AMR in a timely manner. Additionally, it is people’s attitude towards medicinal use, and the lack of adherence and consideration to best practice – mostly out of ignorance, responsibility, and priority. Globally, the gross misuse of antimicrobials in humans and animals poses the leading challenge in mitigating the threat of AMR. From a country-wide perspective, achieving a sustainable module using One Health approach for addressing AMR remains a major challenge and one in which countries must not only recognise but make meaningful investments in.