MADANG PROVINCE, Papua New Guinea — On an overcast day in Dimer Village, community-health officials gathered to hear from Michael Lefebvre, who is in the country with a group of eight (plus his wife and two children). He traveled with the group from YWAM Ships Kona in Hawaii, where he and his travelling companions trained in Primary Health Care for three months prior to their journey.
Having arrived in Papua New Guinea at the dawn of 2016, the group was ready to participate in some of the first health clinics since YWAM Ships Kona made a five year commitment to the island nation to deliver medical services from the m/v PACIFIC LINK, a medical and training ship with 50 volunteers on board. In meeting with local health care workers, Lefebvre was seeking assistance spreading the word about clinics his team planned to offer in the isolated areas of Sumkar District. The goal of the clinics was simple, yet ambitious — administer vaccinations for some 200 children 5 years old and younger in the surrounding villages. It is a service that the United Nations has highlighted as a vital need.
Because of limited access to vaccines, children living in rural areas are twice as likely as those in the city “to die before their fifth year” according to a report on Papua New Guinea prepared by David McLachlan-Karr, a U.N. resident coordinator. The report later notes that nearly a third of children who die before reaching age five die “in the first month of life.”
In an effort to help alleviate this problem, the YWAM Ships Kona team recently traveled for two hours outside of Madang to Dimer and Basken villages. As they trekked along a dirt road in an old Jeep, the rain threatened to undermine their medical mission. Indeed, a storm caused their clinic to shut down early. The team was, however, able to vaccinate more than 100 children against malaria and tuberculosis.
Karoi Kamac, a health extension officer for Madang Province, was burdened by the need that still exists, but encouraged by the work of YWAM Ships volunteers.
“There were so many children who missed out on immunization — more than 2,000 didn’t get their immunization,” Kamac said before adding “I couldn’t blame anybody, but I was happy with the team.”
Kamac was optimistic when thinking about future clinics conducted by PACIFIC LINK teams.
“We can return and see those unseen children and reach them. At least we can administer a dose or two. But we’ve taken the first step, so I’m really happy.”
To learn more about YWAM Ships Kona’s outreach efforts in Papua New Guinea, click here.