Giving birth is a very personal experience. For many women it is both challenging and emotional.

While homebirths are increasing in popularity in Australia, fewer than 1 per cent of Australian women will give birth without the care of qualified health professionals, compared to more than half of women in PNG.

Australia is only 160kms away from PNG, that’s closer than Sydney is to Newcastle. Melbourne and Sydney are six times further apart than Australia and PNG. We tend to forget what close neighbours we are in distance, yet we are so far apart in basic healthcare.

Giving birth is often a life-changing experience for Australian women, but for our closest neighbors in Papua New Guinea, giving birth all too often ends in death.

There is an extreme shortage of hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses in PNG (The Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital has 410 doctors. This is one of many hospitals servicing the city of Brisbane. The whole of PNG has fewer than 400 doctors).

The rates of maternal mortality in PNG are simply unacceptable. As Australia’s closest neighbour, we cannot continue to allow PNG’s mums to lose their lives in situations that would be unthinkable here in Australia.

We can help.

ChildFund Australia is making sure that women in remote communities have better care at the time when they need it most, by training village health volunteers and upskilling rural clinic staff.

ChildFund provides delivery kits which contain a plastic ground sheet to give birth on, soap to wash hands, gauze to wipe a newborn babies’ eyes, and a sterilised blade to cut the umbilical cord. These reduce the risks of infection and possible death for both mother and child.

ChildFund also distributes lighting kits so that health workers can see what they’re doing. With proper lighting, it is possible to determine whether the whole of the placenta has been delivered and, if not, ensure a woman is referred to hospital. Retained placentas are leading cause of infection and hemorrhaging and can result in death.

These are simple things, but in PNG, simple things save lives.

Patricia found Judy bleeding early in the morning. Pregnant with her third child, Judy had gone into labour at home in her village in Kivori, in remote Papua New Guinea (PNG).

She was a four-hour drive away from the nearest hospital, in the capital Port Moresby.

Her mother-in-law, terrified, sent for the nearest available help, and Patricia, a Village Health Volunteer trained to identify and assist mothers during pregnancy and childbirth, arrived soon after.

“I stayed for some time,” Patricia says. “Judy’s water did not break until 3pm and then her contractions started and she delivered the baby, but not the placenta.”

Recognising Judy had a retained placenta and therefore was at risk of developing an infection, Patricia immediately called for a public motor vehicle to take Judy to Beraina health clinic.

This quick diagnosis helped Judy get the medical assistance she needed, potentially saving her life.

“I was so lucky I went to Beraina. At the clinic the nurse helped deliver the placenta [using oxytocin], then she gave me some medicine and I stayed overnight,” Judy says.

“I was so worried and I thought I would be finished.”