Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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World Health Day is held annually on 7 April and marks the founding of the World Health Organisation in 1948.

For more than 70 years, this day has been used to increase public knowledge and awareness of important health issues.

From diabetes, vaccinations, and breast-feeding; to depression, road safety and physical activity, World Health Day generates global attention on the most significant health and wellbeing topics of our time.

A focus on health equality

In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, a polluted planet and increasing incidence of diseases, the theme for World Health Day 2022 is: Our Planet, Our Health.

This theme will bring global attention to urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy, and foster a movement to create societies based on wellbeing. 

The Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) states that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

However, the reality is that an individual’s birthplace can determine the ease in which they can access nearby, affordable, quality healthcare.

The impact of a global pandemic

According to the World Health Statistics 2020 report, only 33-50% of the world’s population was able to obtain essential health services in 2017.

With healthcare systems in many countries overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that this access has reduced even further for thousands of children and families since 2020.

The report says: “The COVID-19 pandemic not only draws into focus the need to rebuild resilient health systems with increased access to quality health services, lowered financial cost and a strengthened health workforce, but also calls for the provision of services such as routine vaccinations and basic hygiene and sanitation.”

Obstacles to accessing quality healthcare

For children and families in developing communities, there are three major obstacles to accessing essential healthcare:

Location: In remote and rural areas, health clinics can be located at significant distances from communities. This is often compounded by a lack of public transport, with families needing to undertake long journeys on foot, as they cannot afford other transportation options.

Resources: Even where clinics are established, government budgets may constrain the services they are available to provide. With a shortage of qualified staff, and an even greater shortage of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, these clinics may only be able to offer the most basic of care.

Cost: Children and adults with more complex conditions will generally require the services available at hospitals located in urban centres. While public health systems may offer care that is free of charge, funds are still needed to cover travel, accommodation, and food costs. As they are foregoing earnings during this time, the total sum needed to access quality healthcare can be out of reach for low-income families.

You can support health and wellbeing for all this World Health Day by purchasing one of ChildFund Australia’s Gifts For Good. Healthcare gifts that can be donated to those in need include COVID-19 Protection Kits and Birthing Kits for Mothers.

Supporting rural communities to access healthcare

ChildFund’s health programs are focused on increasing access to healthcare among children and families, by driving both community and systems change, particularly in remote and rural communities.

In Timor-Leste, ChildFund is training Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to address high levels of child malnutrition and maternal mortality.

CHVs like Augusta regularly monitor the growth and health of children in her village, referring them to a health professional when required, and providing advice to parents and caregivers on hygiene and nutrition.

Augusta also supports pregnant and new mothers, recommending that they deliver babies in health facilities rather than at home, and the importance of breastfeeding.

In Papua New Guinea, with COVID-19 infection rates soaring, ChildFund is working with PNG’s Department of Health to ensure rural communities can still access essential healthcare, even where local clinics have closed.

ChildFund PNG’s Integrated Community Health Outreach Services are delivered in remote villages  with the help of ChildFund staff and district health personnel.

These outreach services bring vaccination, antenatal care, tuberculosis/HIV/malaria screening, family planning, growth monitoring, health promotion, and other priority health services to rural villages.

In Zambia, ChildFund is focused on reducing preventable deaths from malaria. The world’s most deadly vector borne disease is particularly dangerous among children, with 57% of malaria mortalities occurring among children under the age of five.

ChildFund Zambia is responding by:

  • educating children and their families about how to recognise the symptoms of malaria;
  • testing children and their families for malaria and providing referrals to treatment; and
  • providing families with insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Health and wellbeing for all

ChildFund Australia health adviser Tracy Yuen says: “In recent decades, we have made significant progress towards achieving improved health outcomes around the globe.

“Life expectancy is increasing, while child and maternal mortality rates have reduced significantly.

“However, if we are to meet targets within Sustainable Development Goal 3 –  ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages  – we need to be better prepared for future global health emergencies, and provide targeted support in those regions where enormous disparities continue to exist in terms of access to quality care.”

You can help increase access to quality healthcare for all this World Health Day. Donate one of ChildFund Australia’s Gifts for Good, or create your own health-focussed Fundraising Event in support.

Today is World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. Every year ChildFund Australia marks the occasion by raising awareness about one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases. TB has devastating health, social and economic consequences for people around the world – but particularly for the world’s most vulnerable children and young people.

Every day around the world, 4,100 people die from TB and one in 10 people with it is a child.In Papua New Guinea, the rate of infection is one of the highest in the world.

Olve Ha, Head of Health Program in ChildFund Papua New Guinea

We caught up with Olive Oa (pictured left) ChildFund Papua New Guinea Health Program Manager, to hear how they are continuing to support children and young people to access vital health services to diagnose and treat TB.

What is the current TB situation in PNG?

Papua New Guinea experiences extremely high rates of TB across the country, particularly when compared to the rest of the world. This is largely due to lack of access to health care and low rates of immunisation.

In the Central Province, TB is still very common in the communities and health centres we work in. Here, there are 15 health centres that diagnose and support patients who test positive for TB. All 15 health centres have at least one staff trained to care for and manage TB patients. ChildFund works in six health facilities in the surrounding area.

What is CFPNG doing to address these issues?

We set up a  genetic testing machine to test for Tuberculosis in Bereina, Kwikila, and Porebada. In Bereina, the testing machines run on solar power.

We have trained 60 TB Treatment supporters across the six communities to support patients who have been diagnosed with TB and provide them with the right treatment. After an individual is diagnosed with TB, they are sent home and their closest treatment centre is notified so they can continue to access care and medication.

Many of those working at the treatment centre are trained community health volunteers.

What progress has been made since starting these activities?

We have continued to ensure that these testing centres are operational, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Bereina Health Centre, we set up a standby generator that can provide electricity when solar power isn’t available. We are also planning for a refresher training for the Kairuku District Health workers to provide more information about treating TB.

What challenges is CFPNG facing in treating TB?

In my experience, there are several major challenges that we face. Firstly, many of these patients come from very remote village in the communities we work in. The roads are so bad that cars cannot access them for weeks at a time. Also, people with suspected TB often wait until they are very sick before they reach out for help meaning their treatment is delayed. Finally, although the community health volunteers provide good support, they are often under-resourced as we don’t have enough funds to support this work.

What is ChildFund doing next to support individuals with TB in PNG?

We need to improve the capacity of health workers at every health centre. Right now, 80% of the health work force is community health workers. All health facilities undertaking TB work should be supported with the right training, communication and solar power that can provide basic microscopy testing, lighting, and electricity.