Giving birth is a very personal experience. For many women it is both challenging and emotional.

While homebirths are increasing in popularity in Australia, fewer than 1 per cent of Australian women will give birth without the care of qualified health professionals, compared to more than half of women in PNG.

Australia is only 160kms away from PNG, that’s closer than Sydney is to Newcastle. Melbourne and Sydney are six times further apart than Australia and PNG. We tend to forget what close neighbours we are in distance, yet we are so far apart in basic healthcare.

Giving birth is often a life-changing experience for Australian women, but for our closest neighbors in Papua New Guinea, giving birth all too often ends in death.

There is an extreme shortage of hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses in PNG (The Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital has 410 doctors. This is one of many hospitals servicing the city of Brisbane. The whole of PNG has fewer than 400 doctors).

The rates of maternal mortality in PNG are simply unacceptable. As Australia’s closest neighbour, we cannot continue to allow PNG’s mums to lose their lives in situations that would be unthinkable here in Australia.

We can help.

ChildFund Australia is making sure that women in remote communities have better care at the time when they need it most, by training village health volunteers and upskilling rural clinic staff.

ChildFund provides delivery kits which contain a plastic ground sheet to give birth on, soap to wash hands, gauze to wipe a newborn babies’ eyes, and a sterilised blade to cut the umbilical cord. These reduce the risks of infection and possible death for both mother and child.

ChildFund also distributes lighting kits so that health workers can see what they’re doing. With proper lighting, it is possible to determine whether the whole of the placenta has been delivered and, if not, ensure a woman is referred to hospital. Retained placentas are leading cause of infection and hemorrhaging and can result in death.

These are simple things, but in PNG, simple things save lives.

Actress and ChildFund Ambassador Danielle Cormack has had her fair share of nerves especially on an opening night of a play or a movie premiere. But as she drove through the small villages of remote Uganda on a recent trip she was struck by an unexpected jolt of nerves.

“It was mixture of anxiety, excitement and anticipation,” she says.

For the last 13 years, Danielle waited for this moment, the first face-to-face meeting with her sponsored child Akullu.

As Danielle’s vehicle made the final turn towards Akullu’s tiny village, she spotted a jubilant group of women waving branches and cheering. At the front of the pack was the 18-year-old Danielle travelled across the world to see.

“I had dreamed of meeting her for 13 years,  and finally there she was standing in front of me,” Danielle says.

“I’ve seen her grow up through her letters. When I first started sponsoring Akullu, her grandfather was corresponding with me on her behalf as Akullu was only a little girl. Now she’s grown into this incredible young woman.”

Akullu was just five years old when Danielle started sponsoring her. Girls like Akullu in regional parts of Uganda face serious hurdles, including a lack of access to education, healthcare and nutritious food.