The State of Emergency (SOE) lockdown has been difficult for the people of Papua New Guinea, and for Gash Yamata, this was certainly the case.
Mr Yamata is the Head Teacher of Dimisisi Primary School, a remote school in Morehead LLG in the South Fly district of Western Province. When Mr Yamata heard that the Aerial Health Patrols (AHP), a health initiative of PNG Sustainable Development Program Limited (SDP) was visiting Morehead Health Centre, he walked for three days (145 km) to seek medical care for himself and obtain medical supplies for his community.
Morehead is located on the far side of the Western Province close to the Indonesian border. Access is a challenge. There are few roads, and people such as Mr Yamata, walk long distances to get to the health centre. Moving around this time of year in the wet season is particularly difficult. With so much water around, snake bite is common.
During the SOE, special exemption was granted by the SOE Controller David Manning so that SDP’s AHP team could continue visiting remote Western Province communities, such as Morehead where the Health Centre had been closed due to a lack of medical supplies. The SDP team brought in face masks, drugs, vaccines, soap, snake bite bandages and anti-venom. The facility had not had snake anti-venom in over 20 years.
During the first 4-day patrol, the 7-member patrol team of health professionals conducted immunisation, antenatal, family planning clinics and health checks for children at the reopened health facility, working alongside the four nurses stationed there.
The need was so great that the patrol team visited the following week for another 4-day visit to bring in more supplies, provide patient care, and deliver their COVID-19 community awareness programs throughout the community. This second visit had more time for training the health centre staff.
It was during a COVID-19 awareness program that the SDP team met Mr Yamata.