Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give health and education a priority

Source: yutok, Post Courier, November 24, 2011
THE United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) four and five say that by the year 2015 all nations which are signatories to the MDGs should “ Reduce child mortality” and “ Improve maternal health” in their respective countries.
In the Pacific, all countries have done well except Papua New Guinea- the largest island nation in this part of the world.
It may be argued that none of the smaller island nations have the size of the population that PNG has and that may be a justifiable reason.
But the fact is that successive governments in PNG have not been consistent in implementing the MDGs – let alone making a start since signing the accord with other world leaders in New York.
Our public health system has continued on a downward trend for decades and yet very little has been done to stop the downward deterioration.
Despite political rhetoric by governments over the years, the reality out in the bush everywhere is one of despair. Health centres, aid posts, even main hospitals are barely staffed, lack many essential medical drugs and equipment, no access to take emergency cases to hospitals and operate in total isolation with no back up support even from provincial health services.
If there is one public policy area of Government that needs to be urgently addressed now it is the public health policy. The system that was set up to deliver basic health services to the majority of Papua New Guineans in the rural areas – as well as thousands in the urban centres – is simply grinding to a halt.
Thousands of newborn and babies under the age of five years have yet to be vaccinated against various diseases either because of lack of the vaccines or because of denial by health staff.
The Angau Memorial Hospital children’s clinic is closed and children cannot be treated for all kinds of sicknesses. Mothers taking their babies there for vaccinations are told to go somewhere else for the vaccines. Those arriving at urban clinics are told there are no vaccines.
Health authorities in Morobe and Lae in particular need to wake up from their long sleep and see what is happening to the children.
Out in the remote areas, the situation is worse but there is no way of knowing the truth about the extent of the problem.
Our story yesterday about mothers using torches to light up the labour ward at the Gusap Health Centre in the Madang Province highlights the extent of the crisis in the remote areas.
Motherhood is supposed to be safe. The Department of Health and the United Nations Office in Port Moresby launched a big campaign years ago to promote safe motherhood in this country. But what positive outcomes have come out of that campaign? Zero!
What a shame. Maternal mortality is a serious health issue in PNG and yet little is being done to reverse the current trend. Mothers are dying when they are not supposed to be. Even their babies are dying when they are not supposed to be.
The Department of Health at the national level appears to be in perpetual management crisis at the very top and that is not helping the situation on the ground for this country. Health and education need to be placed before the National Executive Council and Parliament for closer scrutiny because both hold the key to the future of this country. Without Government giving health and education of our children a top priority, PNG will remain a nation of poorly educated and unhealthy population, unable to meet the challenges of nation building.

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