Rain clouds darkened the sky as the patrol team tossed bags into the dinghies bobbing beside the MV YWAM PNG. The mounds of gear and food would fuel the 16-person patrol to Iaudari village in Sohe District, Oro Province. The team planned a three day stay that offered the remote village optometry, dental, health education, and primary healthcare services.
Five rain-soaked hours later, the patrol team arrived on Iaudari’s banks. The diverse team was made up of an Oro Provincial Health Worker and YWAM volunteers hailing from five countries.
They were excited to see what had developed in Iaudari since YWAM’s previous patrol there in January 2017. Iaudari had an outbreak of malaria at that time, as well as other healthcare gaps resulting from limited access to healthcare services. The 2017 patrol had been by helicopter, but this year YWAM was able to send boats upriver — thus allowing a larger patrol force.
The patrol team stands in the building that doubled as the primary healthcare clinic and the dining hall.
The team did not have to wait long to see patients. Optometry soon bustled with patients receiving new glasses; dental performed extractions from their mobile clinic; and the community engagement team taught about malaria, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections — all critical issues in Iaudari.
Meanwhile, the primary healthcare offered physiotherapy, antenatal, family planning, and outpatient services. Over the course of three days, they saw 125 patients, many of whom displayed the ramifications of the limited healthcare in Iaudari. Over 28 cases of malaria were identified, as well as numerous cases of respiratory infections.
For many of the expectant mothers, the antenatal clinic was their first antenatal consult.
Phillip Tahima, an Oro Provincial Community Health Worker and YWAM volunteer, noted that things had changed since YWAM/Oro Provincial Health team’s first visit. Malaria was still prevalent but the cases were less severe, and the village was cleaner. “There have been improvements,” said Mr Tahima.
The improvements are a testament to the village’s perseverance. Despite a village elder’s estimation of population of 300-400, Iaudari has no community healthcare workers or nurses, nor any power or running water. As a result, the ill have to walk at least an hour to the closest health centre. Once there, healthcare services are limited due to supply shortages; the centre has no immunisations or malaria medication.
Iaudari’s dream is to have their own health post, which would provide the needed supplies and immediate access. “One month ago three children died from malaria,” said village elder Rodney Etobae, “We need a health post here.”
Rodney (left) and Bob Etobae, brothers and village leaders, are passionate about promoting health in Iaudari.
But until then, visits by YWAM’s patrols and the Oro Provincial Health Teams are invaluable. Bob Etobae, another village elder, said “YWAM’s medical team being here is of help because for so long we haven’t had medical services…They are helping children, pregnant women, and various illnesses. We are so grateful.”
Beyond the 125 patients seen by the primary healthcare team, 106 people received glasses, dental saw 39 patients, and the visiting Oro Provincial Health Team administered critical immunisations.
YWAM joins them in the dream that one day, they will have their own aid post.