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The simple things saving lives in Papua New Guinea

On the afternoon of 20 July 2018, Aiva turned up at Waima Health Sub-Centre with birth pains. Later that night she delivered twin healthy baby boys.

This was Aiva’s fourth pregnancy and second delivery at a health centre with a trained health professional.

“Although I was surprised to have two babies, I’m glad it was here at the clinic and not at home as I know they will be ok,” Aiva said.

Aiva hails from Waima village in a remote part of Central Province in Papua New Guinea.

Women in her village often walk for hours to the nearest health facility to give birth and endure the 180km ride to Port Moresby if they have complications during childbirth.

Papua New Guinea has some of the world’s highest rate of deaths in childbirth. Many mothers have no choice but to give birth at home, with the help of untrained relatives or traditional birth attendants.

Women living in Aiva’s village, where ChildFund PNG works, often have to walk several kilometres to the closest health clinic, which has two trained health workers and limited facilities.

If the clinic is closed, they must travel 24km to the closest district health centre. Women usually have to hire costly taxis, which are few and far between in remote communities, to make this journey. This can end in tragedy.

This year, thousands of generous Australians donated a combined almost $250,000 to ChildFund’s appeal to help mothers like Aiva and her babies in Papua New Guinea.

Australians also sent cards of support to women in PNG, a kind gesture that brought tears to the eyes of many expectant mothers in remote villages in PNG.

“Thank you to all our neighbours in Australia who are supporting us and have sent us these cards,” expectant mother Aiba said.

“It’s so nice to know that someone I’ve never meant is thinking of me and my baby. Thank you.”

Expectant mothers like Aiba in PNG appreciate the generous support from Australia.

The support from Australians is helping train village health volunteers, provide birthing kits to midwives, and support mobile outreach clinics to remote communities.

These solutions may seem simple, but they save lives. Jacinta Oa is one of two community health workers who service the almost 10,000 people who live in the villages surrounding Waima.

For a long time her clinic, which was once primary school classroom, struggled for resources.

“Many of the primary health care services at Waima Health Sub-Centre were not functioning,” ChildFund PNG health program manager Olive Oa says.

“Since ChildFund began the health projects in Kairuku, it has strengthened the health system and improved this facility to a standard where women and children can now access many vital services such as vaccinations, antenatal and postnatal services and most of all having a delivery room where mothers can safely deliver their babies.”

Village Health Volunteers like Patricia are already making a difference in women’s lives

One of the most recent upgrades was the addition of seven solar panel, which give the clinic reliable electricity around the clock.

“It used to be a real struggle in the night, when I had to attend to an emergency and I had to go by torch light” ” Jacinta says.

“Usually the relatives who bring the patient in also switch on their torches to brighten up the room.”

Jacinta and her fellow community health worker now have a network of trained village health volunteers who can assist mothers in emergencies and encourage people in their villages to go to the clinic to give birth to their babies.

These village health volunteers play an important role in teaching pregnant women about the dangers of giving birth at home, as well as monitoring women who may be at risk of complications during pregnancy.

ChildFund is helping take some of the burden off mothers by partnering with village health volunteers and local health officials to provide mobile outreach clinics in remote villages.

For the outreach program, the health team sets up a camp in central locations over four-day periods and provides antenatal and family planning care for women, deworming and immunisation for children under five years old and general health care.

For many people in remote villages, this is a rare opportunity to speak face-to-face with trained health professionals.

Jacinta says this work is encouraging more and more women to give birth at her clinic. It’s a decision that many, like Aiva and her mother, are glad they made.

“I assisted Aiva when she delivered her second and third baby in the village,” says Aiva’s mother. “I’m so happy we brought her to the clinic this time.

“If she had been at home, I would have panicked when I realised there were two babies. I would have been very scared.”

Aiva (right) and her twins, John and Kaore, are safe with the help of generous Australians

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