The National, Friday 03rd Febuary 2012
IMELDA Tagobe left her mother and home in Tari district for Port Moresby at the tender age of four.
She followed her brothers and sisters who were going to school in the big city, specifically her best mate and sister, Cynthia Tagobe. TheTagobe children were merely doing what so many children from Southern Highlands Province have been doing over the last 15 years – going to Port Moresby and other centres in the country in search of education.
Imelda enrolled at the Jack N Jill kindergarten along Henao Drive in Gordon far away from her mother in Tari.
Keen onbeing with her older siblings and be educatedin the city Imelda didn’t give a second thought of missing her mum.
Two years quickly passed at Jack N Jill and soon she was enrolled at Boroko East International School. At the end of last year, Imelda completed Grade 2 at Boroko East and secured a place at Ela Murray International School to begin grade 3 in 2012.
Like many children, Imelda returned home to spend the last Christmas vacation with her mother and other members of the family in Tari. While on holidays in Tari, Imelda also celebrated her eighth birthday on Jan 3. On Sunday Jan 15, she was to fly to Port Moresby with her brother Zephaniah.
But she didn’t. Imelda felt a bit sick and also wanted to be in Tari for a few days more. So she remained in Tari.
Her parents rebooked her ticket to fly to Port Moresby on Tuesday Jan 17. She never made it.
Instead Imelda flew to the capital in a body bag. She died suddenly on Monday Jan 16 after falling ill.
During the funeral gathering at the Tagobe residence at Five Mile along Henao Drive on Jan 19, Imelda’s father and Tari businessman, George Tagobe recounted how she died suddenly with no health care in Tari.
He said their effort to take her to Tari district hospital when she suffered from a sudden high fever and body ache on the night of Jan15 and the following morning were in vain. He said on Sunday night, there were no staff at Tari hospital.
He said they waited for several hours for attention and he returned home to sleep while her mother, Elma stayed with her returning home later. The next morning Imelda was brought to the hospital but despite the efforts of hospital workers to save her she died that day.
Tagobe said Imelda’s death from a preventable fever and body ache can be blamed on himself, her mother, the health service system in Hela and the leadership in public services and politics.
The outspoken community leader said if everyone performed their responsibilities well, kids like Imelda would not die unnecessarily.
“Because Imelda is my daughter we are gathered here and talking about how she died suddenly from a preventable cause.
“What about so many less privileged children of average people back in Hela?
“My daughter died because everyone responsible including us parents failed in our responsibilities.”
A cross-section of Hela leaders who gathered at Imelda’s funeral agreed with that many Hela continued to die because of the problems with health and other government services in SHP and soon-to-be-separated Hela province.
The Hela leaders gathered included SHP governor Anderson Agiru, Komo-Margarima MP, Francis Potape, Chief executive of Hela Transitional Authority (HTA) William Bando, Chairman of Hela Gimbu Association and member of HTA, Damien Arabagali, former Tari-Pori MP, SirMatiabeYuwi, businessman Johnny Philips, businessman PaiWasa and Howard Lole.
These leaders admitted that Imelda and many other children continue to suffer or die from lack of health, education and other services and the new Hela province has a real work on hand to fix the problems.
Arabagali and Lole called on Hela leaders and diaspora to return home and build their new province so children like Imelda do not die from preventable causes.
Arabagali said due to the problems with the education services in Hela, he brought his children to be educated in Port Moresby.
Agiru and Potape admitted to the difficulties Hela faces adding that they were a result of a combination of factors.
They said the death of a daughter of respected Hela leader from a preventable cause can be a reminder that there is much work that needs to done in Hela.
Imelda’s cousin and Air Niugini pilot, Captain EsmondYasi said she would not have died if health services in Tari and Hela were functioning well.
Captain Yasi called on Hela leaders to stop talking in Port Moresby and return home and do the work they are mandated to do to improve services for the benefit of the thousands of the suffering people.Imelda’s body was flown home to Tari and laid to rest on Monday, Jan 23.
She was flown to Port Moresby by her father for the extended relatives, friends and school-mates in the city to see her body before she was taken back to Tari.