By PAUL MINGA
ROTARY International, as usual, is silently at work in PNG, delivering and initiating life-changing and humanitarian impact projects for many institutions and communities in the country.
It is working in partnership with the PNG Government and various state institutions and other stakeholders.
Many people in PNG would still remember one of Rotary International’s biggest projects under the Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM) campaign which distributed treated mosquito nets nationwide. This is indeed a wonderful life-saving gift to individual Papua New Guineans up in the mountains, down the coast and those living in far-flung islands and atolls. RAM distributed high quality yellow and blue treated mosquito nets that people in rural areas especially may be sleeping comfortably under now.
According to Rotary International Home-based Malaria Management officer Gideon Pokowas, the ever increasing incidences and deaths from malaria make it one of the top five killer diseases in PNG despite efforts like treated mosquito net rollout programme started some years back.
Rotary lnternational, through its ongoing goodwill assistance and working in collaboration and partnership with the national Department of Health this year under its RAM programme again embarked on another pilot project which is now being rolled out to seven selected provinces in PNG including Northern.
This is the home-based malaria management (HMM) training of local community malaria volunteers (CMVs) who would be stationed in their respective communities. It is another life-saving concept that will benefit communities that are distant from from existing health facilities.
Pokowas said the main focus of this particular programme is to detect malaria at the earliest stage possible through the concept of having a CMV based within communities. He said this pilot programme by RAM in training CMV health workers has already started in Northern in June this year and will run until December 2023.
Korisota village in Tamate LLG was the first community in Northern to start this pilot programme for the training of CMVs. Twenty-three participants who were trained by two facilitators, Grace Rahua and Gideon Pokowas are to serve Korisota community. The first ever CMVs training was conducted from June 27 to 30.
Northern Provincial Health Authority disease control officer, Gibson Kungkene officiated at the commencement of the RAM pilot programme. He commended the community for accepting the programme and also acknowledged the work of CHVs who he said would be agents of change in the community.
Villages who already had their malaria volunteers trained and serving now are Korisata, Bagau, Gona and Togaho. This is an ongoing programme that will be extended to every community in need, especially those situated quite a distance from existing health facilities in the province.
Pokowas highlighted that the RAM Northern office would be continuing this pilot project to train malaria volunteers from time to time until all disadvantaged communities in the province have a male and female volunteer.
He said applicants who would be trained to serve their respective communities must be literate and have a heart to serve at all times including late at night and during odd hours.
One man and woman from each community would be trained to serve their people
“This is a volunteer job where you would become like another leader in serving your own community as a good Samaritan without any form of payment. But do not forget it is a long term programme,” Pokowas said during the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the trainees, community representatives, NPHA and Rotary’s Northern office.
He further added that the pilot RAM programme for interested community-based malaria volunteers would be basically impart knowledge and skills from experienced medicals to trainees to better prepare them to detect and diagnose malaria at an early stage. Volunteers will gain the right knowledge and information about the disease and administer the Mala 1 treatment.
In a situation where a patient is diagnosed with an illness other than malaria, the trained community medical would write a referral letter for the patient to seek treatment at a health center or hospital.
Pokowas also stressed that this Rotary lnternational programme to train locals to become malaria volunteers was found to be convenient.
The trained community-based volunteer health workers would be issued certificates signed by the Health Secretary.
Under this concept trained locals won’t leave their communities as in the case of teachers and community health workers who are brought in from a different districts or provinces and leave at the end of their tenures. That is why Rotary International wants to adopt the practice of training locals from within their own communities.
The malaria volunteers would therefore have no reason to migrate elsewhere as they are locals who would be living their entire lives within their communities and attending to the sick quickly.
Nickson Garopa, a community-based health worker, said due to the high incidence of malaria cases in his Togaho community, people flocked to his house in numbers seeking treatment and at times the Mala 1 treatment quickly ran out.
He further stated that as a community health worker, he realised the importance of this pilot programme and requested Rotary to conduct its home-based management programme in his village and surrounding communities.
He thanked Rotary lnternational and the health department for working hand in hand to fund this vital concept that will go a long way in benefitting PNG citizens wherever they are, including Northern.
- Paul Minga is a freelance writer.