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The lives of two young siblings living in remote Papua New Guinea are at a greater risk than ever before as the COVID-19 crisis pushes the country’s health system to breaking point.
By Rita Mu
Max’s mother Esther watches on with a big smile as Max (above) laughs and claps his hands.
Deep down, though, she is full of worry.
Max is only two years old, but for most of his life he has had recurrent chest infections and a persistent cough.
Esther suspects he might have tuberculosis (TB), an airborne infectious disease that generally affects the lungs. If left untreated, TB can become fatal.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), where Max lives, the disease is endemic and a leading cause of death.
When children like Ruth and Max become seriously ill, they must travel to PNG’s capital city of Port Moresby – several hours away by foot and public transport – for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
It is a long and costly trip for a family like Ruth and Max’s living in extreme poverty.
For children like Ruth and Max living in poor, remote communities in PNG, contracting a life-threatening infectious disease is a risk they face every day.
Good hygiene and sanitation facilities are few and far between.
And local health facilities are almost always understaffed and under-resourced.
The recent COVID-19 crisis in PNG has put the lives of children like Max and Ruth in serious danger.
Papua New Guinea’s already fragile health system is now at breaking point. Hospitals and health clinics are overwhelmed by the huge numbers of COVID-19 patients, and many are no longer able to provide essential health care and services.
Children and families living in remote communities have been turned away from their local clinics because facilities have been converted to spaces for testing and treating COVID-19 patients.
While many lives in PNG have already been lost to COVID-19, many more could be lost because everyday health services are no longer available.
ChildFund is also operating outreach clinics in Central Province to provide children and their families with TB/HIV/malaria screening, vaccines, antenatal care, family planning advice, growth monitoring, health promotion, and other priority health services.
These outreach clinics are organised and run by health professionals and local community health volunteers, who are trained by ChildFund.
They are helping to save the lives of some of PNG’s poorest children and families, and have been critical during the COVID-19 crisis to help ensure children like Ruth and Max continue to get the essential medical care they need while hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed.