ADB and it’s partners boost rural health services in Western Highlands Province

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Representatives of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Government of Australia, National Department of Health, and the Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority participated in an opening ceremony for the Alkena Community Health Post built under the multidevelopment partner-funded, Rural Primary Health Services Delivery Project.

Cofinanciers of the project include ADB, the Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development.

“The project aims to increase the coverage and quality of essential primary health care in rural areas by upgrading the existing health infrastructure, and developing capacity to deliver services where they are most needed,” said Inez Mikkelsen-Lopez, Health Specialist at ADB and the project’s team leader. “The project is developing and formalizing partnerships between government providers of healthcare and non-state providers such as churches and non-government organizations.”

After the ceremony, officials met with members of the local Alkena community, a village of 6,500 people located in the Tambul Valley, Western Highlands. The Alkena Community Health Post replaces the existing small, run-down aid post which struggles to deliver services to an average of 75 outpatients per day. The new health post will significantly boost service delivery by providing a full range of primary health services and referring patients to the Tambul District Hospital for higher care.

The health system in PNG has been in decline with little infrastructure investment and an aging workforce. An estimated 40% of rural health facilities have closed or are not fully functioning.

The Rural Primary Health Services Delivery Project is helping upgrade existing health facilities, including staff housing, while providing medical equipment and other supplies. In collaboration with an Australian government-funded training facility, the project trained health officers on essential and emergency obstetrics care, and infectious disease management.

The project also organized activities to raise community awareness on sanitation, maternal and child health, and gender-based violence. Partnerships between the state and other health providers — such as the private sector — churches, non-government organizations, and civil society are also being strengthened under the project to sustain health service delivery in rural and remote areas.

Recent project milestones and achievements include the opening of the first community health post in Milne Bay, the establishment of an electronic national health information system, and the training of 160 rural health officers in health facility management.

The project covers Milne Bay, Eastern Highlands, East Sepik, Enga, Western Highlands, West New Britain, Morobe, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

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