A new fridge-freezer to keep vaccines cold, and regular collaborative outreach patrols, particularly reaching women and children, are recent efforts to strengthen access to essential healthcare along the Bamu River in Delta Fly District, Western Province.
Emeti Health Centre serves Bamu River and was recently supported by Western Province Health Authority (WPHA) and its partners to have a solar-powered fridge installed. The facility can now store its own supply of medicines that need to be kept cold (including for routine childhood immunisations). An added bonus is ice-brick freezing capacity which allows teams to reach distant villages while still keeping the essential vaccines at low temperature.
After coordinated teamwork to get the fridge-freezer in place, a group of local health workers, district health personnel and YWAM Medical Ships (YWAM MS) volunteers have been hard at work conducting patrols across the wide catchment area.
Over the past three months, more than 1100 doses of essential immunisations have been administered to children along the river. These immunisations include both catch-up doses for toddlers over one-year of age and increasing numbers for infants receiving protection at a young age. Coverage rates (the percentage of children immunised) are also seeing welcomed increases.
“Protecting our pikinini (children) from vaccine preventable sickness and death is a major priority for us and for our communities along the rivers,” says local Community Health Worker and patrol co-leader, Robert Gamai.
Robert is a father himself. Both he and his wife serve as local health workers and know the importance of on- time immunisation for children.
“My wife and I obviously want the strongest protection for our child, and it is a privilege to be able to serve other parents and babies with these immunisations too.”
The team recently returned from its final patrol of the catchment area to close out the year.
“Having our own capacity to store vaccines here at the health centre now, working hard together on patrol and starting to see these coverage rates rise – it gives us strong motivation and a wonderful early Christmas present.”
The patrol teams provide integrated primary health care services including routine childhood immunisation along with antenatal care and family planning access, COVID-19 testing and vaccination services, and respond to other needs as they arise.
The Emeti health workers and YWAM MS patrol teams are supported by the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership. This includes supporting PHAs to achieve inclusive delivery of quality essential health services in rural areas. Targeted support is also provided by the Australian-funded Accelerated Immunisation and Health System Strengthening (AIHSS) project, with key facilitation by World Vision PNG.