Our team have recently returned from another successful, although challenging trip to Papua New Guinea. 3 midwives travelled with the church leaders to the remote village of Bunam again where we had been in July 2013. This time we were accompanied by local midwife Rhondy which gave us great insight into the area, the health needs and the cultural system. It has been a very dry season and so the river was low and the boat trip took us 7 hrs (last year it was 5.5 hrs and we thought that was long!!)!
It was very special to be given a warm welcome when we arrived at the village: "welcome home, Sara!" And it was lovely to meet up with people who we have been developing friendships with over the past 2 years: village leaders, pastors, village birth attendants, health volunteers, families.The Health Centre in Bunam sadly remains closed, but there was certainly a different 'feel' in the village this time. Hope?
On the Monday, we gave out information about the contraceptive implants which we had brought with us courtesy of Rotary 'Spasim Pikinini Project'. This session was given to men and women together. There were many questions and we answered them with facts. Later that day we started inserting the implants and did 25. Most of the women had had 6-8 children already and leapt off the trolley with big grins after the procedure.
Each morning Debbie and Rhondy gave public health education to over 100 women. They covered topics such as normal pregnancy, healthy eating, having antenatal checkups, safe birth with a skilled birth attendant, infection prevention and immunisation.
Nicci and I gave more intense training to 48 health volunteers and village birth attendants. There was also one trained health worker and a Health Extension Officer were present too (the HEO walked all night to come to our training which he had heard about. It was the first time I had met him). The majority of people had come to previous training that we have provided. The others came because they had heard about our training - this was encouraging. Our topics included family planning methods, danger signs in pregnancy and how to help a woman who is haemorrhaging after birth. The highlight for me was when I asked the group to divide into smaller groups and come up with a song to teach their communities about the danger signs in pregnancy to get help sooner rather than later. It was hilarious as they all overcame their shyness and fear and gave some very funny presentations about danger signs.
Unfortunately, our training was cut short due to some unrest in the village. We never felt personally threatened, but one of the local health team members was hurt in a 'payback' attack. We felt we had to leave to send a very clear message to the village leaders that if they wanted us to come and support them, they had to provide a safe environment free from random violence. The people were very sorry about what had happened. I have to admit that I cried because I just felt that it was the women and young children who were suffering again and missing out, because of the actions of hotheaded young people.
After working tirelessly on the last afternoon to insert another 50 implants, we left with heavy hearts. But we did manage to train another health worker to be able to continue supplying and inserting the contraceptive. He is now travelling from village to village to provide this service to the people (he reports to me that he has inserted a further 70 implants!) and is on his way back to Wewak as I write this blog, to collect more supplies.
Debbie, Rhondy and Nicci then stayed in Wewak for a further 5 days, spending time in the maternity ward at Boram hospital. They continued to build relationship with the local midwives and had the opportunity to provide some care to the women birthing there. Samaritan Aviation staff made the most of the midwifery expertise and enjoyed some teaching sessions as well.
So, a challenging trip, but again many more doors have opened for us, in particular, a reassurance that the local people and local government want us to visit again...
We would like to thank Send Hope Not Flowers for their very generous grant which greatly assisted with costs for this trip.