locals from remote Sindeni village carrying the mdical supplies to the health center
Photo supplied to MAF

Pregnant women used to endure a dangerous trek across rivers and mountains, but MAF flights supported by the New Zealand Government are tackling the issue.

Story by Kowara Bell

Rosa Misek knows the dangers that pregnant women in her isolated village face in trying to access health services.

She says expectant mothers in the remote community of Boikoa, in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands, often have to tackle a perilous journey which increases the danger for each woman and her unborn child.

‘’Many pregnant women in my village are forced to walk or be carried over mountain tracks and across vast rivers just to reach the nearby Sindeni village where the health centre is,” Rosa says.

“Unfortunately, several expecting mothers in the village have lost their lives along this journey because we have no adequate medical facilities or health workers stationed in Boikoa health centre.”

Rosa also revealed that they had lost several very ill family members and that they found it challenging for their children to receive routine immunisations due to a shortage of supplies and the drastic journey they must make.

However, a collaboration between provincial health authorities, MAF, and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been fundamental in tackling these issues faced throughout the remote regions of PNG such as Boikoa.

The MFAT-funded flights on MAF aircraft have provided a great opportunity to transport medical supplies and other materials that the community requires.

Megan Levers from the office of MFAT with Mr Kua, a local health worker
Photo by Kowara Bell
(From right) Mr Kua, health patrol officer, MFAT Representative, Megan Levers and a local from Boikoa village.

Jerry Roko, a spokesman and leader of the Boikoa village, welcomes the vital link. He says previously the long treacherous walk to bring patients to the nearest health centre meant many succumbed along the way.

‘’But now with MAF and the New Zealand Government we were able to be assisted in our village,” he says.

“Through this, our kids are getting their routine immunisations, and it has prevented them from getting sick and our expecting mothers are being attended to in the village.’’

Jerry Roko (from right) with his family at Boikoa village.
Photo by Kowara Bell
Jerry Roko (from right) with his family at Boikoa village.

Betty Donkay, a 76-year-old grandmother of five from Boikoa, describes her excitement when she saw the MAF plane show up with the health team. Thankfully her family had remained well during the long wait for supplies.

‘’My heart was deeply filled with joy and if I were a dog, I would have wagged my tail to show them how delighted and grateful I was,” she says.

“Our health centre was out of supplies, yet we were able to keep ourselves fit and healthy for the last few months without any serious health issues.’’

MAF's project donor liaison, Caleb Bjorem, is excited about the impact of the partnership with MFAT and provincial health authorities.

‘’During this time, MAF conducted 151 community visits, exceeding the initial goal of 132. Additionally, 110,000 people were reached, exceeding the original target and providing a staggering 525% of the planned childhood vaccination total, equating to over 19,000 children,” Caleb says.

“I think this vaccination of children in villages was the most stand out accomplishment. Although many people in PNG are hesitant about vaccinations, their relationship of trust with MAF, built in some cases over a period of 2-3 generations, led to a much higher uptake than had been predicted.

“These lifesaving vaccinations will have a massive impact on these communities for many decades to come.”