On the 2nd August, ADI celebrated ten years of working in New Ireland, PNG. This milestone highlights the depth of the relationship between New Ireland Provincial Government and ADI alongside the dedication of ADI staff and doctors, the Provincial Health Authority (PHA) staff and the generosity of our donors. Financial support over these 10 years has come from Provincial Government of New Ireland and the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
The impact of this work is difficult to quantify, yet joint collaborations have ensured that since 2010, 119 outreach patrols have been conducted, which equates to 1031 days on patrol and 506 visits to remote health facilities. Health workers in remote areas of New Ireland have been provided with in-person training from ADI doctors which has boosted local capacity, particularly in emergency obstetrics and family planning. In 2010, maternal mortality ratio (MMR) for Papua New Guinea was 168 deaths per 100,000 live births, a statistic which has steadily reduced, with figures at 145 as of 2017.
New Ireland Governor, Sir Julius Chan, has praised ADI’s continued work in New Ireland, “We have nothing but extreme gratitude for the efforts of ADI. They really go out of their way to ensure our people have access to health and education services. And we recognize that it is not easy work. Travel and accommodation conditions are often very difficult, but ADI does not let that stop them. They are genuinely committed to not only improving the health of New Irelanders, but, as importantly, to educating New Irelanders how to manage their own health. That is why we are proud to partner with ADI and to provide K450,000 per year to support their excellent efforts. That is one of the best investments we have ever made. I only wish our public servants had the same level of commitment to serving our people. Congratulations on serving the people of New Ireland for ten year’s and beyond,” said Sir J.
Sir Julius Chan met ADI’s President and Founder, Dr Peter Macdonald, in 2010 on a scoping trip to New Ireland. From there Sir Julius invited ADI to work in New Ireland to improve health services to rural communities. New Ireland Province, which is comprised of multiple islands grouped in the north-east of PNG, has limited local medical staff – just fourteen local doctors support 243,025 inhabitants – and the geographic layout of province makes patient outreach difficult. In conjunction with the staff from the PHA, ADI’s focus has been on providing supplementary medical assistance to rural New Ireland through integrated health patrols, family planning, gender equity programs and emergency obstetrics training. Amongst the health issues facing New Ireland residents, malaria incidents remain high, with around 220 in 1000 people affected, and nationwide, PNG remains the country with the highest rate of maternal and newborn mortality in the Western Pacific Region. Over the last 10 years, mobile patrol teams have provided much needed medical testing, treatment and referrals for New Ireland’s hard to reach communities and will continue these efforts in the future.
Reflecting on ten years of work in New Ireland, Dr Peter Macdonald, commented, “The 2nd of August 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of an enduring and rich partnership between The Provincial Government of New Ireland and ADI. It has been built on a strong foundation of trust and goodwill and has resulted on a wide range of health projects aimed at improving the wellbeing of the people. I have particularly appreciated the commitment, support and friendship provided by the Governor, Sir Julius Chan, and I look forward to many more years of working together. Of particular note, ADI receives annual funding from the NIPG; without such generosity, our projects would not be possible. It is sad that COVID-19 does not allow us to celebrate in New Ireland style, but that in no way lessens the joy of this occasion”
Despite the new challenges posed by COVID-19, ADI remains committed to supporting New Ireland through current and future health crises. As of the 26th July, there have been 62 reported cases of COVID-19 in PNG, most of which are health workers which has had significant implications on standard health services. Working within the limitations of COVID-19 lockdowns, New Ireland patrol teams have been able to get out to Namatanai, Tigak Islands, Konoagil East and Konoagil West areas. Outreach trips have been conducted across villages, schools and health facilities focusing on COVID-19 awareness, hygiene and prevention measures, as well as continued response to family planning needs, and incidents of gender-based violence which have spiked globally during the pandemic. Since April 2020, ADI has shipped 376kg of medical equipment and educational materials to New Ireland, including almost 27,000 pieces of PPE with financial support from Newcrest. Remote webinars have also been hosted for health workers on preparedness and management for COVID-19, correct use of PPE, and how to deliver maternal healthcare during COVID-19.
ADI looks forward to many more years of successful collaboration with the Provincial Government of New Ireland and colleagues in the Provincial Health Authority. Together, we will continue to provide improved health services to remote and rural communities and future generations.