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Health volunteers bridge the gap in remote PNG

In some of Papua New Guinea’s most remote villages, groups of ChildFund-trained health volunteers are delivering life-saving support to vulnerable children.

The beachside village Kivori-Kui lies on the western edge of PNG’s Central Province, an 8km walk in the searing tropical heat to the closest health centre.

It is a journey Stephen has made several times with his young daughter, and one he has seen many people avoid because they were too sick to travel.

“It’s a very difficult walk, especially if you are very sick of if you are pregnant,” Stephen says.

“Sometimes it can take two hours or more. People avoid going to the health clinic because it is too far away, but that makes them more sick.”

Diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are common in Kivori-Kui and the surrounding villages. Although these diseases are curable if treated in time, they are two of the main causes of death for children in Papua New Guinea.

Steven is one of 95 volunteers ChildFund PNG has trained throughout Central Province to bridge the gap between remote villages and health care centres in major centres. This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

He is one of 60 Village Health Volunteers who deliver basic health services to people in their village and make referrals to the health centre.

Village Health Volunteers also play an important role in cutting down the number of women who give birth at home, which can lead to high rates of mother and child mortality.

Volunteers refer mothers to clinics with skilled birth attendants and can provide emergency assistance during delivery when mothers cannot make it to the clinic.

Many Village Health Volunteers, like Stephen, volunteer as TB Treatment Supporters, ensuring people with tuberculosis go to health centres and follow their course of treatment.

“They are on the frontline,” says Olive Oa, who leads ChildFund PNG’s national health program.

“In Papua New Guinea we cannot have doctors or nurses in every village, so this network of volunteers is crucial to stopping diseases like TB and malaria and helping keep people healthy.”

Steven has been a Village Health Volunteer for a year and he says the role has been rewarding and challenging.

“At first there was not a lot of knowledge about health issues and the treatment available,” he said.

“But people listen and they are go to the health clinic now. They come to us when they are sick and we can help them.

“I did this because I want to help my village. I am proud I am doing that.”

ChildFund’s Village Health Volunteers are making a big difference for children in villages in Papua New Guinea

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