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.
Yamata lives in a Morehead community located on the far side of Western Province near the Indonesian border where accessibility is a challenge. There are few roads, and people such as Yamata walk long distances to get to the health centre, through difficult terrain and dangerous tracks, and snake bite is common during wet season.
Hearing about the Aerial Health Patrols of PNGSDP coming to the Morehead Health Centre, he had to make this dangerous walk even against SoE restrictions because he needed to get medical help for himself and his community.
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 seven-member 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.
It was during a COVID-19 awareness program that the SDP team met Gash Yamata, who told them of the difficulties faced by the health care workers at Dimisisi during the COVID-19 emergency. They were unable to travel to the Morehead Health Centre for supplies and medical attention.
“I walked for almost three days to get here. Dimisisi is very remote. The journey to Daru is even longer at least 221km by foot and dinghy,” said Yamata.
In addition to lack of medical needs, many people living along the border struggled to find food, so many of them often move across the border despite the SOE orders.
Yamata thanked SDP-AHP team for giving this very important COVID-19 awareness program. He said preventative measures he learnt about will help his community to avoid this deadly disease.