When Marnette Aggabao died from apparent COVID-19 related complications in Guam recently, she joined a tragic tally of health workers all over the world who have died during the pandemic.

Aggabao, a 62-year-old registered nurse originally from the Philippines, was admitted to hospital for other medical problems and with a COVID diagnosis. She spent more than six weeks there before she died

Local media quoted her friends as saying Aggabao had talked of retiring, but “then this thing happened."

This ‘thing’ is COVID-19, and the response of our health frontliners in working so hard to treat COVID patients, test and screen many of us, undertake contact tracing, communicate new behaviours (extended hand washing, sanitiser user, social distancing), and deliver usual health services—all in the face of their own fears and exhaustion— is why they are our Pacific People of the Year. Read more here

In our December issue we recognise other Pacific islanders who have had an impact in 2020.

Nauru’s young gun

Lionel Aingimea is our choice for Pacific Leader of the Year.  While University of the South Pacific vice chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia is credited with exposing the rot in the regional institute of learning, it is Nauru’s President and his incoming chancellor that made sure that the vice chancellor kept his job this year.

Bartering for betterment

And Marlene Dutta—the brains, and the heart, behind Barter for Better Fiji—is our Pacific Community Champion for 2020. 

“What we’ve really noticed is that it has really come down to serve its purpose now, where you can see the desperation in the trades, you can see people are actively looking around their house for something they can try and give to get something. Another thing is that it has given people a bit more confidence as well in terms of listing what they want specifically. Before they were happy to accept whatever came across but now the needs are specific, so it’s ‘we need three tinned fish or two packets of milk or this size diapers.’”
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Contributors: Samantha Magick, Samisoni Pareti