Social Concerns Notes – April 2020

Vigilant Nurse

Health system unprepared for virus

10 April 2020

Human Rights Watch

SYDNEY – Even before the coronavirus, the fragile health system in Papua New Guinea was underfunded and overwhelmed, with high rates of malaria, tuberculosis, and diabetes among its population of more than eight million.

Access to hospitals is extremely limited, with 80% of the population living outside urban centres. Prime Minister James Marape has acknowledged the country has only 500 doctors, less than 4,000 nurses, and around 5,000 beds in hospitals and health centres. The country reportedly has only 14 ventilators. A Covid-19 outbreak would be catastrophic.

To date, there have been two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in PNG. It could be that PNG will be spared the scale of the pandemic seen elsewhere such as Wuhan, a dense urban area with a mobile and older population. But Police Minister Bryan Kramer has acknowledged the country has a limited capacity to test people, raising concerns that the actual number of cases is higher.

Despite Marape’s assurances that personal protective equipment would be made available to health workers, the Ministry of Health released a situation report on 13 March detailing chronic deficiencies, as well as inadequate training on use of such equipment

Broken health system braces for Covid-19

12 April 2020

 KOKOPO – The first that staff at Nonga General Hospital in Papua New Guinea heard that they had been treating someone with coronavirus, was when they saw the country’s prime minister announce it in televised press conference on Monday. They had been treating the patient, a volunteer health worker at the hospital, for pneumonia. She originally came into the hospital in late March, but recovered and was discharged, before her symptoms worsened and she was readmitted.

“This person wasn’t put into isolation or even a different ward. She has been walking around freely in the past few days and talking with us, so we are scared. We all left the hospital and are waiting for someone to come and explain what is happening,” said Margaret Melke, a nurse in Rabaul district, where Nonga Hospital is located.

The woman, who is now recovering at her home, is the second confirmed case of Covid-19 in Papua New Guinea. The first was an Australian mining worker, who had flown into the country. But this time the infected person is a local, who had not recently travelled abroad. The case was detected in a village near Rabaul, a harbourside town on the island of East New Britain.

The prospect of the arrival of coronavirus in a country with just 500 doctors and around 5,000 hospital beds and which struggles to deal with even routine illnesses has terrified the public. Health workers are asking how the nation’s fractured health system, which routinely leaves clinics without soap or disinfectant and where nurses report using nappies as gauze to mop up blood and rice packets in lieu of gloves, would deal with an outbreak. The country is already dealing with outbreaks of malaria, dengue fever, drug-resistant tuberculosis and polio.

“When one [Covid-19 case] is confirmed, it is a disaster for us. It is already an outbreak,” said Melke, who has spent more than 40 years working in Papua New Guinea’s beleaguered health system and is the Nursing Union leader for New Guinea Islands. “We are the frontline, but we do not have safety equipment to protect us, so how can we save others? We put our own families at risk.”…

Charles Abel‎ to Alotau District

Facebook 18 April

I’ve spent the last two days going from door to door in the settlements and in town. It’s is really just a continuation of our efforts over the last 2 months to do awareness , send people home and now deliver some rice . I’ve also spent much of my time as a leader in our villages in this electorate as shown on this page. The reality is that most of our people live in settlements and villages . In these conditions it is practically impossible for them to practice social distancing or wash their hands with soap or sanitiser on a regular basis.

Their main concern on a day to day basis is what they will eat for dinner on that particular day. A settlement dweller will rely on one of the wage earners living in the settlements or the informal cash economy in most cases. This informal economy is where the wage earners in general will buy betelnut, market food, cooked food, and resale items like cigarettes, noodles etc. There is also prostitution, sadly. The village people sell their crops to buy essential items like soap, medicine, garden tools, kerosene.

I often put myself mentally into the position of these people. Imagine if you did not get your fortnightly pay for one, two or three months. I just worry so much about the children especially. It has been four weeks of SOE now and soon five weeks. It looks like it will go much longer. We have other medical requirements that continue regardless of covid-19 such as tb, cancer, child birth etc. Access to health services become restricted by SOE.

We need to think about the wider consequences as people are put off jobs, markets close, no sports – an idle population with no income, no food and lack of access to other basic services. We are not like modern countries that can lock up in their houses or units and have savings and food stores. We are talking about the majority of our people here.

David Jah Blum‎ to Sharp Talk

I saw a mother hiding in the flower garden with a packet of Cambridge cigarettes. The profit from the sale will guarantee her a 1kg packet of rice. The last thing on her mind is the dreaded COVID-19, she is more afraid of the police than some incurable disease. Personal hygiene is only for those that can afford to waste the precious water she keeps for only cooking and drinking.

An elderly man with a waist bag slung over his shoulders pretending to look at on coming vehicles discreetly pitches to anyone passing. “2 kina full buai stap” In his waist bag a handful of betelnuts with mustard to go with. Precious cargo that ensures he gets by a day with a simple meal. When you can’t afford firewood you depend on kai bars and shops for daily sustenance. He will gladly shake hands and share the lime (kambang) to any potential customer. He is more afraid of the rogue reservist policemen that occasionally beat him stealing whatever he earns because they know how he makes a living and on a good occasion will have enough cash on him to buy a 6 pack of beer. A few meters off his female partner and their malnourished half-naked children wait patiently for hopefully their first meal of the day.

Whilst politicians and bureaucrats sit in air conditioned rooms talking about the welfare and wellbeing of communities. The SoE lock down is either totally ignorant or just too plain selfishly arrogant to realise the most basic traits of human behavior. Not Papua Niuginians… What kicks a human being into survival mode. Humans beings are controlled by our instincts. We always have been, and we always will be.

Whether we realize it or not, our basic instincts govern our every decision. We like to believe that our big brains and free will grant us the freedom to be free thinkers, but in reality, the power of our primal urges is more powerful than many of us care to admit. The most developed civilised countries in the world acted like uncivilised fools over toilet paper. You won’t have to worry about PNGeans fighting over toilet paper. But when you make a mother act like a thief to feed her family, when families have no option but to become become scavengers.

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
— Aristotle, Greek philosopher

Fees! Fees! Fees!  (Bank of South Pacific)
1. Branch Withdrawal Fee K3.00
2. Acc Maintainence Fee K3.00
3. Branch Deposit Fee K3.00
4. Checking Balance Fee K0.50
5. Transfer Fee K2.00
6. Mini Statement Fee K0.75
7. Deposit Fee K3.00
8. Withdrawal (ATM) Fee K0.50
9. Withdrawal (Counter) Fee K4.00
10. Cheque Deposit Fee K7.00
11. SMS Banking K1.50
12. Account maintainence Fee K10.00

By looking at all this rates and surcharges imposed on customers I am thinking where’s the security of the ordinary citizens of our country. Something has to be done and it has Has To Be Now!

Goodness already.

18 April 2020

| DevPolicy Blog

CANBERRA – The first Covid-19 case reached Papua New Guinea on 13 March 2020, though it was several days before it was unambiguously confirmed. On 17 March the pandemic was declared a national security issue, and a state of emergency came into effect on 24 March.

….Jacko lived in and accessed the outside world in ways that were impossible for most of his kin. His learning, and his messages, influenced their understandings. Kiunga became quiet. Airlines throughout PNG were grounded. Port Moresby residents were now stranded in Kiunga, and Jacko filled his hours exploring the web and posting to Facebook.

Late in the morning on 24 March he posted a simple message: ‘PNG people will not be impacted by Corona virus disease’.

We were concerned that this might be the sort of message he would convey to the village people we knew. Though we seldom do this, we intervened. We wrote:

“Jacko. That is wrong. That is dangerous advice. If you love your friends and family, take this post down. You are spreading false information. People must follow the advice of the PNG health department to help prevent the spread of this dangerous virus that is killing people all over the world.”

Jacko replied: “Yes, we can advise our PNG People to take extra precautions measure to follow WHO advise from spreading the virus. Bottom line is PNG Christian country which God had placed in the center of the equator where it is consistent with a temperature of up to 26-27 degree Celsius.”

Jacko tells us that God placed the Christian country of PNG at the equator where moderately high temperatures would protect the people from the ravages of the virus. He agrees, however, that it would be sensible to take extra precautions with respect to hygiene……   (See the url for the full story….)

The prayer from next door

17 April 2020

Daniel Kumbon.

PORT MORESBY – With Papua New Guinea under a state of emergency, I haven’t been able to return to my home in Wabag and, here in the national capital, I continue to hear the lady next door pray to God every morning.

Today’s prayer, translated from the Enga and Pidgin languages, went something like this.__________

Thank you God Almighty for giving us Papua New Guinea.

It has oil, gas, gold and coffee and other rich resources but why we remain poor, only you know.

May this time of pestilence be a time when PNG can acknowledge you as our God and Saviour.

May it be a time when everybody repents and turns away from our bad ways. Forgive us our sins. Take us back. Guide our government.

Thank you for keeping us safe thus far. Destroy the yoke and set us free.

Protect our leaders and give them wisdom in our time of need.

Let them bow down before you.

This tiny germ has forced them to their knees. From there, let them see you as the only one who can give them strength to face this tiny germ.

Other countries have many doctors, nurses and money but PNG lacks everything. But God you have kept us safe.

You are a merciful God, the God of Abraham, Jacob and Esther. You are the God who sent manna from heaven, the God who gave your people water in the desert.

You are the God who fed multitudes with only five loaves of bread. You are the God who healed the sick. Let PNG see you, the God of Miracles…..

And on she prayed….and like for the last three weeks, my ears were turned in the direction of her humble home.

And the birds continued to sing providing the background choir every morning, perhaps praising God as they’ve done for millennia.

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