The following two recent news articles highlight why Living Child is so important. We encourage you to have a read.
SBS, May 30th, 2018 ran this headline
PREGNANT WOMEN 35 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO DIE JUST 160KM NORTH OF AUSTRALIA
Radio New Zealand had this article 1 June, 2108
More mothers dying in childbirth in Papua New Guinea
Hey! It's Saturday! Let's go to the Wewak markets!
It seems that half the town is at the market, this being the only free day for many to go shopping. The sellers are all there early in the morning, lugging huge stretchy bilums full of whatever they have to sell, and setting up a display on their tiny patch of cement ground or on one of the long cement benches. They carefully stack their goods and balance on top a cardboard square with the price clearly marked. So by 8am, it is a kaleidoscope of different faces, colours and voices as people jostle in the narrow passageways, compare different things on offer, verbally joust with the sellers, laugh with the friends they meet, and probably discuss the week's menu options.
As we enter the gate, you will see clothing festooning almost every inch of the wire perimiter fence, and providing shade for the plastic shopping bag sellers (heavy rice-sacks cut and sewn into big shoulder bags). One of the 4 open-sided pavillions houses all the crafts..... everything from leather-feather-bone-shell men's head-dresses for ceremonies, to the ubiquitous bark-string bilum bags, necklaces, wood carvings (mostly crocodiles, the symbol of the province), woven grass bags of all shapes and sizes, and mats.
Another pavillion houses the various meat products, fresh, cooked, live or smoked - fish, clams, prawns, lobster, crabs, sago grubs, turtle, crocodile, wild or domestic boar, or bats. No boring old chicken or beef here in this market, though we can get them frozen in the small supermarkets elsewhere.
Then there are all the vegetables and fruits in every other available space within the fence, making for very colourful displays, especially the outside ones under gaudy umbrellas. Most western recipes have to be adapted.....some things substituted, and others reduced.....when small onions cost $1 each, you don't use too many! Potatoes are very rare, but sweet potato is abundant. Peas and carrots won't be found, but there are many other interesting things to try!
And of course, you have to get used to the money. PNG Kina notes are colourful and plastic, because of it being printed in Australia, and the Kina and Toya coins are easily differentiated....we like the 1 Kina with the hole in the middle! And it is worth 40c Aussie, so not hard to figure out.
OK.....time to go home now and store, cut, cook, eat, freeze, share all the goodies we found. Thanks for coming along!
There is a team going up from Australia to PNG on 14th July for two weeks .....3 Aussies and 4 PNG women who are either nurse/midwives or have close ties with the Keram area. So it will be a very interesting visit!! The Living Child volunteers who are resident in PNG (Jim and Robyn Nottingham), and Sara in Perth, have been busy organising the logistics for such a large team moving around and having a varied agenda. The team will also be carrying a heavy load of donated medical equipment, which the hospitals there desperately need.
Up there, the team will be joined by the experienced PNG midwife (Linda Tano), who is hoping to move to the District centre of Angoram soon. Jim and Robyn have been attempting to get an allocated, but VERY run-down, house ready for Linda to move there permanently. And that will mean that she can help co-ordinate a more intense program for the women......a new and long awaited phase for Living Child.
Things can and do move very slowly and unpredictably in PNG, but the women are certainly enthusiastic about the attention and training, and plans for an experienced midwife to live in their area! Pray for good health and energy, for safety in travel for everyone, for clarity in teaching and training, for understanding and agreement from the men, for all the logistics of travel/meals. accommodation and learning areas, for the work to be done quickly for Linda's house, for her official government staff transfer paperwork to be completed, and for good access to the equipment and supplies needed to open the maternity ward in Angoram. All the pieces are slowly falling into place!
Let us take you along to Angoram, where we went on Wednesday, tagging along with their District Administrator.
Setting out from Wewak in the dark at 5am, it is a 2 hour+ drive on the only road heading south-east over the Alexander Range. You get great views back over the ocean from up there! The dirt road is being worked on, but with the heavy rainy season just finished, there are plenty of erosion ruts and bumpy rocks, so hang on to those handles above the doors! The thick green jungle is beautiful to pass through as it encroaches on the road….. forever growing and needing to be cut back.
Arriving at Angoram, you would be surprised that it doesn’t look like a town. It is the District centre, situated on the northern bank of the huge Sepik River, and was once a thriving holiday resort and trading centre for the colonial Germans. But no sign now of the hotels, golf course, movie theatres and healthy businesses! When their new District Administrator, Raymond Wungen, arrived 18 months ago, there was not much more than a lot of grass, 60 or so houses and run-down buildings, a decrepit primary school, a very run-down and non-functional wooden hospital and secondary school, and a bad crime problem. There is still not one single shop, but Raymond has made a HUGE difference in changing the place. They now have 9 policemen and it’s safe, a town water supply, an electric generator running 12 hours a day, 3 good dirt roads (soon to be sealed), an energetic renewal of both the schools, a renovated little hospital, a cement jetty on the river, 2 motels, and several new government office buildings. As a result, houses are being repaired and built, and the population is growing steadily with the now-functioning District services.
Wearing our Living Child hat today, our main interest of course is the hospital. There is not much point training village health volunteers all along the (Sepik tributary) Keram River system to recognise high risk pregnancies or potential delivery problems if there is no place for them to refer those women. People who do make the several-hour, arduous canoe ride to Angoram, then have to find a ride for the long, bumpy road trip to Wewak hospital (and we might tell you about THAT place another day!). So it is essential for the health of everyone in the entire district that the Angoram hospital, especially the maternity section, be up and running. DA Wungen has constructed a new brick maternity block that is almost completed, and which he hopes Living Child will assist in equipping. There is also an abandoned and run-down staff house next door to the hospital, that he will organise to be rehabbed. We have ordered 3 special beds for the delivery room, and visiting trainers from Australia have carried up donated smaller equipment in readiness……. as we wait to secure a midwife to run the section and to be a huge asset to the maternal health training project.
Now, about the rest of Angoram……. As we said, it is on a bend in the huge Sepik River, one of the biggest in the world, both in drainage area as well as amount of water flowing in it. It starts out all along the rugged central highlands, draining north into an almost flat plain and then meandering in huge, double-back loops, east to the sea. In the photo, you can see all the river basin geography you learned in school… exaggerated looping river, ox-bow lakes, swamps, billabongs, grass everglades, but strong currents mid-stream.
Crocodiles are a common danger, but they also provide food (we even found vacuum-packaged croc meat in the Wewak supermarket), and material for art … the prows of the scores of visiting dugout canoes are just one example. Check out the length of that one dugout …wow! And take note, too, of the outboard motors on some of them! So the traditional transport is not always powered by paddle! Fish of various types and sizes are plentiful, caught and brought to the open-air market every day. We were surprised to see the foot-long Piranhas among them (the ones with orange colouring around their side fins), but apparently they were ill-advisedly introduced to the river in 1994, stocked because they are usually vegetarian and they multiply quickly. Yes, well…..
Anyway, the markets are still open-air, from about 7am to 10am under the shady branches of two HUGE rain trees. People come from far and wide to sell their meagre wares, spread on small mats in rows. Interesting things like 3 smoked bats, or a few dozen river shrimp, or a whopping great Moon Fish, various greens, cooked sausages, cold cokes, bright coloured wool to make bags with, fried dough balls, packets of biscuits and individual onions. But they also come for the social aspect …...one big get-together for a few hours. And a perfect time to get messages out to all the surrounding villages!
After talking at length with DA Wungen in the car and his office, and all day with various people in charge of health planning, hospital administration, education, building, and women’s issues, touring the secondary school and trying to find some food (no shops, remember), we headed back along that bumpy road and arrived safely back in Wewak at 10pm.
Flying out of the mountains and down to the coastal town of Madang was spectacular in the early morning light, topped off with flying low over some incredibly beautiful coral reefs and lush islands, and the town of Madang itself, where we could easily pick out the short main street and bookshop roof. We walked around Madang town quite extensively, exploring the lagoon, the boat landings, the gardens of the hotels, the views out to the close islands......and of course spent time with the 5 staff of the bookshop, brainstorming ideas to better publicise their shop and all it offers. We also visited the nursing school to find out about sponsoring some obstetric students, visited the translators living right next door, and caught up with some MAF pilot friends from many years ago. One night, we attended the weekly meeting of the Madang Rotary Club.....an interesting bunch.....a Philipino, a Fijian, 3 Aussies and 7 PNGers... And most of them affiliated with the hospital. So guess what all their projects and fund- raisers are for??! More women than men, too... unusual. It turned out that they didn’t induct Jim at that first introduction, but they will do so next time. So he will have to make another trip over sometime soon.
In both Goroka (in the mountains) and Madang (on the coast), we visited the museum and learned a lot about the different cultures, and the history since PNG was explored by folks with cameras, and governed by superintendents who liked to build museums. They both have well presented displays and are well maintained. They have a LOT of stuff in them, but we thought this giant mask made out of rope was hilarious....it was over a metre high, so the dancer would actually have been looking out from the big grin!
How do you like the poster for a bank? We think that WE should be allowed to spell English the way they do over here....much more sensible!! In fact, Pigin is a whole lot more sensible than English in every way......you just have to have your ear tuned to a very broad Aussie accent, and remember that the only verb conjugation consists of just sticking -im on the end of the root. So "yu mi tupla wantim go long stoa" means "We both want to go to the store"....simple!!
Now that we are back in Wewak, we need to spend some time with our partner's family of 5 energetic boys. Here is a photo of 2 of them, being closely supervised by the family cat.......which also gives us some close supervision and advice now and then! The photo at the computer was taken about 5 minutes ago, and he is now asleep in an empty box especially put there for him up on the wardrobe. We live in a small bed-sitter flat below the wooden floor of their tropical-elevated house, and it is working out very well.
God bless you there! Until later.....
Since we arrived in the small town of Wewak, PNG, we have been kept running! Our being on the ground here has been invaluable in terms of getting things moving, opening clogged communication lines, and meeting wonderful partners. Our official sponsor is the CBM bookshop head office, and that has worked out perfectly! Everything we have enquired about for Living Child has been greatly facilitated by a parallel need in CBM. For example, we need 100 small solar-powered lamps for the village birth attendants and 3 of a larger model for health posts...because babies have a habit of being born at night, rather than the more convenient daytime. And CBM has just recently done a lot of research into reliability, costing, in-country availability and shipping logistics for the same size lamps, for distance learning students to use to study at night. So they could all be ordered together last week, and should be ready and waiting to be distributed at the next Living Child training session in April.
And delivery beds, too. Not that the bookshops need delivery beds, but they do have close relationships with all the right people, making sourcing and shipping them smooth and easy. The final recommendation is for some well-built stainless steel beds to be imported from China (photo attached). The lower half folds all the way down out of the way.
This week, we will be visiting the Provincial Health Department, to let them know that we are living here now. And the obstetric department of the Wewak hospital, to officially to hand over the equipment we carried from Perth.....an ultrasound, infant suction, dopplers, oxygen monitors and surgical instruments. Unfortunately, the large box containing the oxygen concentrator was not allowed by Qantas, but we got the remaining 60 kg all the way through to Wewak without paying any overweight. Miracles still happen!
Friday 24th Feb
Good evening! How was your day? On arrival,we were relieved that we only felt sticky and a little bloated and "detached", like always happens with a sudden change of setting, weather and humidity.
We are staying at a small guesthouse run by really nice German missionaries ....a cute place on a steep hill and with a huge mango tree and view across the valley. Soon after arriving yesterday afternoon, we collapsed under a whirling ceiling fan for a long sleep!
Much revived this morning, we'd had a driver recommended, and he showed up to take us around the very spread-out town, built on and between dozens of hills. First stop was the bank to collect a cheque book, and our hearts sank at the jammed crowd filling the whole inside, looong queues inching forward imperceptibly, but in good temper. An hour later, we finally got to the window, only to be told to go to another line with at least 15 people in it! But the guy decided to help by taking us directly to a teller. After a while, she then told us that now we had to go back to HIS long line! But we did finally get the forms and information we needed...phew!
Then off to find a good source of solar-powered lanterns for village heath volunteers. We need to get at least 100 later, but today was just scouting.....and thank goodness for the driver! Shops/dealers we were directed to are not always labelled well, if at all, but he found them.
Then at 2pm, we met the US ambassador at her embassy....a good friend of our friend the US ambassador to Malawi. It was a very interesting time and we learned a lot about her programs and things she is most interested in.
Right across the road from the embassy is this incredible Bank of the South Pacific! And the typical Port Moresby street scene.
Well, tomorrow we head north to Wewak and our base for the next 3 months.... here we come! So for now, it's good night from Port Moresby!
Video: Health volunteers from several villages singing a song they've put together about danger signs in pregnancy
2016. Another year begins. Hard to imagine that Living Child is coming close to the end of it's third year as a registered organisation! Amazing to reflect on this last year, recall what local people have said about the impact we have had on them and their communities. Here is an extract from a report I (sara David) wrote for the East Sepik Provincial Health Authority after our most recent trip in August 2015:
A number of health volunteers who have come to Living Child training before said that the training is making a big difference in their communities. The fact that they are returning for further training and spreading the word is evidence that they appreciate the way we provide training. Comments include:
It's these comments and stories that encourage us to persevere in the face of many challenges.
Thank you for your support and we'll keep you posted as our plans for field trips become confirmed in the next couple of months!
In March this year I had the pleasure of participating in a mission to PNG with Living Child Inc. The goal of the mission was to deliver training in safe motherhood to village birth attendants and health workers. The first 2 weeks was spent in Anguganak with fellow Australian midwife Debbie Butters, and PNG midwife Rhondy Ktumusi, and the last week Rhondy and I went with Living Child founder and midwife Sara David to the East Sepik River region. Living Child had been invited to Anguganak by Dr Max Stevenson as there was a huge need for training as the numbers of women and babies dying in childbirth was high. I spent my first 2 weeks with Dr Max, Graeme (the radiographer), Debbie and Rhondy in Anguganak. We lived together as a team in an old mission house that was rarely used and had a large family of resident rats. Each day was full with class preparations, conducting classes, clinics, cooking meals and just daily life in a village. The evenings were spent avoiding mosquitoes, preparing resources for teaching with Rhondy and often staying up late to make teaching aids such a cervical dilatation chart or drawings of the reproductive system.
We were made very welcome by all the villagers and health workers. Sixty four village women came to our classes with many stories of the challenges pregnant and childbearing women face in the village and their eagerness to learn how to help save the mother and baby. We had lots of fun sharing knowledge and stories and so much laughter as the women practiced their new skills during role plays. After 4 days the women really felt more confident and proud of their new knowledge. They went back to their village with a new sense of hope, hope to be able to help the mother in birth, hope to recognise danger signs early and the knowledge when to refer women to the health centre, and hope to save the baby at birth when it does not take its first breath. To see this was so fulfilling and satisfying.
It was the same for the 32 health workers who were eager for more knowledge and improved skills to be better able to assist women during childbirth. The health workers embraced their new knowledge and were fully engaged throughout the classes. Overall the 2 weeks in Anguganak was both very busy and very rewarding and worth any hardships we had to face.
After meeting Sara David in Wewak, Sara, Rhondy and I head out on a long jeep drive and then travelled in a dugout canoe for about 3 hours along the Sepik River. Here we found the village women equally as enthusiastic to learn how to save the mother and baby. It was a completely different experience to Anguganak with thousands more mosquitoes during both day and night to constantly try and avoid. Here the women had a more difficult challenge when faced with medical emergencies, as they had a long way to travel on the river before they could access a road and a vehicle to medical help. You could feel the pain and suffering of the women, feel their sadness for the mothers and babies lost in childbirth, as well as their frustration with the lack of access to family planning that confounds the problem leading to many unwanted pregnancies, further risking life during pregnancy and birth. The women cried at the end of the training, cried with gratitude for the training, cried with thanks for the ability and skills to help save lives. This was so deeply moving and special. The women I meet in PNG were hungry for knowledge and skills to save mothers and babies in childbirth and I am grateful to have been able to share my skills with them. It was a rich and rewarding experience. It was my first time in PNG and I was very excited to be in the country that still has such strong and rich culture. I was delighted by the enthusiasm of the village women and the readiness for the health workers to learn and develop new skills. This made all the challenges and hardships worthwhile. I was thrilled to be working alongside Rhondy who is a wonderful PNG midwife with excellent skills and a future leader in midwifery, sexual and reproductive health in PNG.
Comment by Sara David: Mary is a global midwifery consultant who willingly volunteered her time with Living Child Inc. this year. We were so pleased to have Mary on our team as she has so much knowledge and experience having worked in many different developing countries over the last 7 years.