After encountering high numbers of malaria, yaws, and whooping cough in Oro Province, YWAM Medical Ships and Oro Provincial Health officers has filed an outbreak report with the Oro Provincial Disease Control Officer and PNG’s National Department of Health.
The YWAM Training and Medical Ship, MV YWAM PNG, frequently visits Oro in collaboration with the Oro Provincial Health authorities. For this deployment, numerous health workers from Oro Provincial Health and Popendetta Hospital joined the ship to help provide healthcare services to Oro’s remote communities. Yaws and malaria have been common within the realms of these villages, but in this visit, the number of cases were unusually high.
In the ship’s two-week deployment in Oro, healthcare teams treated over 300 cases of malaria across 24 villages. The boom of the mosquito-borne virus means more Oro villages are at risk. Nitchkey Guba, an Oro Provincial Cold Chain and Logistics Officer and YWAM patrol member, said, “Based on the stats, we should get a team in to do a mass test on people for malaria and start treating them.” A declared outbreak will allow Oro Provincial health teams to do just that.
A YWAM volunteer nurse, Kristin Judson, treats a young boy with an advanced case of malaria.
In the village of Deboin, four cases of yaws were diagnosed, with eight more suspected.
Yaws, a bacterial skin infection that can move into cartilage or bone, thrives in areas with limited sanitation and contaminated water. While yaws is treatable by antibiotics, remote villages have little access to the needed medication.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, was first noted in Sia, but more cases appeared in Tatutu and Bebewa villages. A total of 42 whooping cough cases were identified and treated by YWAM healthcare teams. The respiratory infection spreads easily unless people are immunised; whooping cough is particularly dangerous for young children, thus making their immunisation status critical. Accordingly, YWAM healthcare teams administered over 1,600 childhood immunisations, which will protect the recipients from whooping cough.
As the health authorities begin to form an outbreak plan, Mr Guba hopes they will take a multifaceted response. The treatment protocols and immunisations can be augmented by health education and hygiene promotion, he said.
“The national department of health, our motto is ‘Health is everybody’s business,’” said Mr Guba, “people perish because lack of knowledge…we can advise them, engage them on health education and prevention.”
In the meantime, the MV YWAM PNG was honoured to partner with Oro to empower the communities via healthcare education and primary healthcare services. Over 2,000 people received primary healthcare services, plus 395 dental procedures and over 800 glasses. Almost 700 health promotion sessions were conducted, all working toward PNG’s goal of a healthy village, healthy nation.