Healthcare in the schools of Papua New Guinea

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Healthcare in the schools of Papua New Guinea

Day 3 notes from the field.

The view outside the ship at 6am today was mesmerising. A thick fog hung all round the river. Its banks were barely visible and the stillness of life around made the temperature slightly chilly. Just when it began to feel like the day would turn out very wet, the sun suddenly came out. Rising right in between the river it shone its silvery light through the surrounding grey.

Sunrise over Pie river at Baimuru. Photo courtesy: Mathew Lynn.

The misty shroud melted away and life seemed to return all around us — kids playing and laughing by the river side, fishermen in canoe paddling along the shore and women on their way to cut sago trees.

By now, a sense of routine has begun to set in. Breakfast, the day’s packing, team briefing and wearing the lifejackets for the quick zodiac ride to the shore followed in a quick, familiar succession and by 8:30am were on the shore walking towards Baimuru school.

Today the Primary Healthcare (PHC) team to which I am attached to was in charge of the checkups and immunisations of all children in school. With an attendance of 400 children expected across all ages, we were prepared for the day to be busy.

The landmark for the school is a large tree under which its located.

Everything in Baimuru is within 10 minutes of walk between each other. So soon after we were drooped off on the river’s banks, the make-shift clinic was setup in a small wooden hut in the middle of the school grounds.

Grade 8 boys wait in queue for their health checkups at Baimuru school.

The stoic nature of the kids was evident as soon as the first one gingerly walked in. Many of the children had very visible healthcare problems such as stunted growth, skin problems and infections. But not a single child pushed the other in queue or cry or moan when faced with multiple immunisation injections. As we went through the checkups, we were greeted with shy smiles, quick responses to questions on vital signs and faces filled with true gratitude.

There was a dignity to the manner in which they carried themselves.

“It was a very busy day full of assessments. Many of the kids had swollen lymph nodes. I have never assessed so many kids in a single day and am pretty sure if I did it back home in Canada, things would be very different.

My favourite memory from today is Samuel, a 7-year old and son of Jenny, one of the school’s teachers. Jenny told us that Samuel was inspired the very first time he saw the YWAM ship on the river. He volunteered to help us take out new syringes from packets as soon as he got his vaccination. It’s great to see his desire to give back and hopefully one day he’ll fulfil his dream to help his people.” — Heidi Siemens, YWAM volunteer and nursing student from Canada

YWAM volunteer and nursing student Heidi Siemens with students at Baimuru school.

Once again the local healthcare workers supported us throughout the day. They learnt new procedures on healthcare checkups from YWAM volunteers, helped with translations and were always cheerful. They also made it a point to bring their own children for the checkups at the end oft the day.

The day is never complete without a communal dinner on the ship deck. And today the local community treated us to baerapu — delicious local sago with coconut, which I hear in this part of the world is the answer to all of humanity’s problems.

Find out more about the healthcare in Papua New Guinea:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Department_of_Health_of_Papua_New_Guinea

Photo Credit — Mathew Lynn

Ashwin Subramaniam
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