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A mother’s short walk to end polio and tuberculosis

My name is Angela and I am 44 years old. I live in a village in Central Province that is a four-hour drive from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital.

I have five children. My youngest child is four months old; he is the only one who has had all his routine vaccinations. The other four children have only had some of their routine vaccinations.

Before ChildFund Papua New Guinea came to my village, it was hard to get my children vaccinated. Our closest health facility is a one-hour walk from my home. If we are lucky they have vaccines in stock and my children receive their immunisations.

When vaccines are out of stock, the nurse refers us to the regional health centre, which is another three hours by foot.

I am not able to do the eight-hour walk to the health centre and back to my village with my children, so I just return home.

Since ChildFund began a maternal, child health and nutrition outreach program in my village, I have been depending on that for my baby to receive his routine immunisations.

I don’t worry about the long walk. ChildFund brings the health workers from the clinics to outreach sites in my village. I take my five children there.

I have been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and I am supported by one of ChildFund’s community health volunteers.

She visits me every day and encourages me to take my medicine. She says TB is curable and I have to diligently take the medication to fully recover.

She encourages me to go to the outreach services and get my children vaccinated.

The Integrated Maternal and Child Health project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

ChildFund outreach sites in remote communities means Angela and her children no longer have to walk hours to get medical treatment and health advice.

At the beginning of this year, ChildFund community health volunteers conducted several awareness sessions and talked about polio disease and how it can permanently cause paralysis and death among children who are not immunised. ChildFund volunteers are helping healthcare workers to ensure all children up until the age of 15 receive all four doses of the polio vaccine. I was delighted to hear that the polio medicine would be given at outreach sites in my community because it’s just a short walk from my home.

I’ve taken my children to the outreach sites when they were sick. My baby has received all his polio doses and is also being immunised against measles and rubella.

I’m so grateful to ChildFund for bringing health workers into my isolated village so my baby can be immunised from these diseases. I don’t think I would have made it to the health centre by myself, and my baby’s health would be at risk.

The community health volunteers play an amazing role in my village. Thank you ChildFund for bringing the health workers and medicine into my village, and for training and equipping health volunteers who are doing an amazing work in the village.

ChildFund’s child and maternal health program is ensuring children living in remote areas, such as Angela’s youngest child, four-month-old Leontine, is vaccinated against diseases such as polio, measles and rubella.

Poliovirus re-emerged in Papua New Guinea in June 2018, after the country had been declared polio-free for 18 years by the World Health Organisation. Within six months, 26 cases were recorded in the country, prompting the PNG Health Department and World Health Organisation to declare an outbreak and call on all sectors of the society to work together to ensure children are vaccinated.

To date, more than 4,500 children have received the polio vaccine.

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