Honing in on Health
Mercy Works’ Village Health Program saves lives.
The distribution of population in Papua New Guinea is extremely uneven. Highlands valleys are densely populated, whilst lowlands areas have only sparse population. This is particularly true in the Western Province, where over 200,000 people are spread across 97,000 square kilometres. This remoteness makes accessing health services particularly difficult, with some villages not having seen a doctor in over 20 years.
The Mercy Works Village Health program in Kiunga addresses this issue by training volunteers to work in health centres and aid posts in the North Fly region. The activities are focused on reducing maternal and infant mortality rates, promoting healthy lifestyles and offering widespread curative care.
Additionally, we help to provide toilet pits, safe water supplies and infrastructure that allows villagers to dry dishes and clothes off the ground – small things that we take for granted here in Australia, but which are not easily accessible and are important elements for maintaining good health.
The program also involves training Voluntary Birth Attendants who assist women with the birth of their children and alert their health centre if there are any problems. With one of the worst maternal health indicators in the entire Asia-Pacific region, Papua New Guinea loses an alarming number of mothers and babies every year. A lack of adequate medical care, due to their remoteness and a shortage of effective government health services mean that mothers are at serious risk of death and disability during pregnancy and childbirth and their babies are at high risk of dying too.
While there are still many challenges for mothers and babies born in the North Fly region, having access to trained support people to help them through pregnancy and childbirth is a big step in the right direction to improving the dismal maternal health figures in the region.
In just the second half of 2017, we travelled to 22 villages along the Fly River to train 3 lead trainers, 29 Village Health Volunteers and 10 Village Birth Attendants. More training sessions are being currently being conducted in the first half of 2018, while our head tier nurse, Cathy Yuki, undertakes regular follow-up site visits for ongoing monitoring and support of the volunteers.
Village Health programs such as ours are the backbone of Papua New Guinea’s health care delivery system. A recent study claims that the support these volunteers provide, helps prevent up to 32% of maternal deaths, 70% of newborn deaths and 50% of child deaths. It’s not a stretch to claim that they are real-life superheroes.
To donate or learn more about our Village Health Program visit https://www.mercyworks.org.au