Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

On the right path to quality health services

In a country where well over half the population lives in nearly inaccessible rural areas, quality health care is a major concern … and among the many casualties four young women are dying every day, from complications with childbirth

For those living in the highland regions of Papua New Guinea, the nearest health facility may be difficult or nearly impossible to access when required.

There’s  a high rate of infant and maternal mortality and a lack of awareness and understanding about the implications of family planning.

Pathfinder International, a US-based nonprofit organisation operating out of Madang, is working to reduce mortality rates and work with communities to educate families on reproduction and health.

They’ve done research that shows a high national mortality rate among mothers of 733 deaths in 100,000 births — and infant mortality stands at 64 out of every 1000.

A healthy mother and new baby at the Madang Hospital

A healthy mother and new baby at the Madang Hospital

“So that means about 1, 300 women die each year,” says Pathfinder’s Program Manager Jelilah Unia, ” four women die each day.”

It is still a grim statistic, and Pathfinder’s belief is that quality reproductive care and sufficient access to contraception is a woman’s right.

They began working in PNG in late 2006 with the goal of assessing health facilites, offering training and education for the staff and providing vital supplies and equipment.

The organisation  says that work has been well-received in these communities and Pathfinder is continuing to expand their valuable programs.

Pathfinder's Jelilah Unia

Pathfinder's Jelilah Unia

One of the methods used to educate women about birth control are necklaces called ‘cycle beads’, introduced in 2008. As most villages have low literacy rates, the beads are a practical option for the monitoring of a woman’s menstrual cycle, without requiring reading and writing comprehension to keep a written record.

Community liason officer for Pathfinder Dick Bart believes his organisation’s work is a crucial step in reducing infant mortality incidences and promoting sexual and reproductive health for women.

However, as is often the case, limitations are imposed as a result of insufficeint funding.

“We are only dealing with the facilities that [are] accessible by road and is easy for us, because of the money situation,” he says.

The facilities most in need of renovations and staff training are therefore not being accessed.

Since beginning their work, Pathfinder’s 12 facilities  have been successfully renovated and its staff trained – giving expectant mothers access to comprehensive medical knowledge and facilities.

Due to the efforts of this organisation, hundreds of people are now enjoying clean water, and improved access to quality health care.

They are one of several outside-based  organisations now working hard, with some definite good effects, to improve the quality of life for many in the country.