Kukipi Health Centre Refurbishment – PART 1

Uritai Village,  Kerema District, Gulf Province Phase 1 Needs Assessment 

Written By Dr. Poyap J Rooney, all photograpgs except 1 (where indicated) by Pukari Peni.  The documentary soon to be releases by Karlos Haltmeier.

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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

–        Robert Louis Stevenson

Introduction

The aim of this trip that saw our group travel by PMV from Port Moresby to the Gulf Province was to “plant seeds”. Some of these seeds may sprout earlier than others, some may grow and flourish quickly, while others may take a little longer, but one thing for sure is that the seed of hope will grow, and as some of the specific projects we hope will take off, this growing hope will beget greater hope.

Our journey was partially sparked by a Brisbane-based charity organization call “Good Samaritans” and a chance meeting between ourselves, a group of young, energetic and creative Papua New Guineans wanting positive change and an improvement in the lives of our rural folks.

Our main focus is firstly the refurbishment and sustainable maintenance of the Kukipi Health Centre building located in Uritai Village, Kerema District, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea.

Secondly, through effective partnerships with other like-minded individuals and organisations within Papua New Guinea and internationally, to equip and assist in the operation of the Health Centre so that it functions at a standard that is fit for the purpose of achieving a healthier population of this area.

The report and future ones stemming from it will be targeted towards people of influence and positive energy: Honorable members of parliament, donor agencies, business organizations, various institutions in control of donor funds, individual and group philanthropists and just individuals willing to lend a hand to their fellow humans.

The Journey

When you want to know and understand what something is about, about how people live, about their difficulties, their sadness and happiness; there is no substitute to being there with them, living among them in their environment, doing what they do, seeing for yourself, first-hand what their situation is.

In health, this understanding, of the lives of the people we intend to improve the health of is critical. Whatever project, policy or intervention we intend to implement, must be appropriate to and for them. This is medical anthropology and is lacking in a lot of well-meaning health or social intervention policies and projects. I have previously posted something on this.

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 FIG: A women doing her daily chore/exercise of cutting firewood.

Day 1 The Journey begins

Within 4 hours we had traveled between two worlds.

From the newly crystalising world that is the busy city of Port Moresby.  A crystalisation that is being catalysed by the smack-banging of the unbridled, unregulated “Western Free market economic world” into a society that is neither traditional nor modern, a society that on the whole is working, hard but on the whole, not as smart as they could be.

From this world we traveled to a slower-paced world, a more clearly defined traditional world where society in general continues to live and sustain itself the way it has been for perhaps thousands of years.

In keeping with our aim of trying to understanding the lives of the people we wished to help, our group decided that we were going to take the trip to the Gulf Province on a PMV rather than riding comfortable on our own air-conditioned four-wheel drive land cruiser.

Our journey began at around 4am with the rest of the team picking me up at 3 mile, Port Moresby.  The First stop was to withdraw some cash from the ATM to pay the private body guards to guard us while we were filming at Erima Junction.

Erima Junction is the gate-way to Port Moresby City where most of the PMVs heading to and from the Hiritano Highway stop to drop off and pick up passengers and goods.  The Hiritano highway passes through the Kairuku-Hiri district of Central Province and continues into the Gulf Province as the trans-highway.

The “Hiritano” derives from the words “Hiri”- the name of the particular wind that occurs at a particular time of the year which the Motuans and various other people along the Pupuan and the Now Gulf coastline used to sail their sail ships “Lakatois” to trade goods with each other. “Tano” meaning Land)

We wanted to make it to Erima Junction before sunrise, not only to see the sun rise and the awakening of Port Moresby from its main gateway, but also to capture the hustle and bustle of one of Port Moresby’s biggest buai wholesale markets.  It is here where one could observe the coming together of the two worlds. The traditional through the much loved Beatle-nut itself, and the modern “free market” world, through the many financial transactions taking place for it’s sales.

I observed that these people, though not having the most comfortable lives in Port Moresby were surviving, they were creating relationships and they and their children, were perhaps getting a better more intimate education about the free market economy which PNG as a country is in general is aspiring to be a part of.   They were in a way getting front row seat, in the education that would require them to survive this new world that is emerging around them.  The lessons they were learning is as important if not more so than the economic theories their more middle to elite class friends were getting in the class rooms.

There was a lot of activity.  As mostly workmen (I did not see any woman among the team working), worked on various construction with their bulldozers, road rollers, cranes; local marketers, choosing to be part of this “modern march” of the so called “free-market economy” were waking up to set up their market stalls to sell products ranging from cheap plastic toys, balloons, radios, smokes, counterfeited iPhone, genuine but mostly stolen iPhones, and off-course the much loved beatle nut.

The buai trade-chain starts from the growers to the transporter, the wholesaler and the persons providing the location of trade, (the wholesale market place) to the retailer pushing sales to the buai-stain teethed end-consumer.

On the street where the wholesaling occurs, several “land lords” along this particular street leased out relatively safe places (their yards) to wholesalers where they could wheel and deal with the many retailers in relative safety.

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FIG: A landlord collecting fees from wholesaler for leasing his front yard.

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Fig: Young buai – retailer probably earner her school fees.

After spending some time observing and filming this interesting market place, we head off to get some breakfast while the PMV driver that we arranged to pick us up, went picking other passengers.

When they picked us up we went trooping around Port Moresby picking up more passengers and their cargo. Kerosene seemed to be one of the most important commodity people took with them.

By a little bit past 10am (Bottle shops open at 10am) we were ready to hit the Hiritano Highway which which took us to Eopoe Bridge where we hopped off the PMV and onto the Kukipi health cantre’s fiberglass banana boat which took us downstream a river (NAME?) to our final destination – Kukipi Health Centre, Uritai Village, Kerema District, Gulf Province.

The road from where we left Port Moresby to about Beraina was reasonably well maintained but from there onwards it took a sharp turn for the worse.  Transferring an acutely ill patient could easily worsen the patient’s situation and become fatal.

Having said that however there are many places in Papua New Guinea have far worse road and transport system many not even accessible by car making logistic and the creation of a viable health system far more difficult than this particular area of the Gulf Province. It is hard to accept that with a relatively flat landscape that the road is not better maintained.

ImageFIG: Our PMV stopping by a roadside market for a snack break.

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FIG: A recently taken photograph by somewhere in the East Sepik Province.  Photo courtesy of Nathaly Z Matagal)

A train service, which may be a better a better option for building and maintaining, would certainly have been easier for our arses, and more importantly for any patients needing transfer.  Perhaps with another wave of LNG money about to hit PNG shores with its development site in Baimuru, Gulf Province, a feasibility study can be undertaken for a railway linking Port Moresby and the Gulf and Central Provinces.

Also with this new LNG project about to take off many spin off businesses will be giving more people in the area opportunities to capture some of the frothing wealth as this new economic wave hits shore.

One individual that has taken a calculated leap of faith is the owner of the “Brighter Future” trade store which is apparently is owned by a Chinese man.  The trade-store came across to me as an anticipatory vision. The owner obviously has done some number crunching and has anticipated that in a few years’ time, money will be flowing through this highway and like a crab-pot set in the creek, his trade store is set to catch some of those juicy cash as it starts flowing from the Gulf interoil LNG project, which after much to-ing a fro-ing in negotiation between the PNG Government and Interoil is soon to get started.

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FIG: The Brighter Future Trade Store the name tell of this China-man’s vision

The River, the villages, the healthy children the value.

The villages from what we could see travelling downstream, still lived more rather than less, how their fathers and their father’s fathers lived for thousands of years.

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Fig: Women processing sago on one of the sand banks on the mouth of the river.  Sago is almost pure starch and is the main staple sources of energy for the people of Gulf and many parts of PNG coast and Island provinces.

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Fig: One of the villages that are located on the river banks – the look and the feel is one of peace and serenity as we pass this village.

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Fig: Typical village home – Uritai

Thirty to forty minutes downstream on the banana boat we arrived at our destination, Uritai Village where we were received by our host and off-course, after the buttocks traumatizing journey from Port Moresby, it was straight off to the beach for a dip and play.

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Fig: Taking the 5 minute stroll to the beach.  Which being at the mouth of the river, was cool and more freshwater than seawater.

One of the most noticeable things that I observed was how healthy and happy the children were.  I did not see a single child nor any adult with obvious malnutrition (either under-nourishment or over-nourishment).  The kids played and laughed and seem very healthy.

Young children learned to swim early, (without expensive swimming classes). The beach, the sea and the rivers after-all were their main and most loved play places how lucky they are to have such a huge place to let loose their imagination and build their childhood memories that they would have with them wherever they roamed in the world.

My hope for these children is that as they grow up and maybe roam the globe that they see the value of what they have and realize that their place, their lives as it is now, their memories which they are creating, are of as much value and important in the development, social and psychological evolution the human family with our planet.  I hope they see these value as equal if not more valuable than the flat-top idiot boxes, the smart and not so smart phone and the coke a colas of the world.

One of the most noticeable things that I observed was how healthy and happy the children were.  I did not see a single child nor any adult with obvious malnutrition (either under-nourishment or over-nourishment).  The kids played and laughed and seem very healthy.

Young children learned to swim early, (without expensive swimming classes). The beach, the sea and the rivers after-all were their main and most loved play places how lucky they are to have such a huge place to let loose their imagination and build their childhood memories that they would have with them wherever they roamed in the world.

My hope for these children is that as they grow up and maybe roam the globe that they see the value of what they have and realize that their place, their lives as it is now, their memories which they are creating, are of as much value and important in the development, social and psychological evolution the human family with our planet.  I hope they see these value as equal if not more valuable than the flat-top idiot boxes, the smart and not so smart phone and the coke a colas of the world.

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Fig: Healthy children living, laughing, playing in their favorites play places – the beach, the sea, the rivers and the forest.

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Fig: A couple of bottles of wines after dinner did the trick to sedate us all into a nice sleep under our mosquito nets on our first night.

About Dr. Poyap J Rooney

Dr. Rooney is a medical doctor who has gained both his undergraduate medical degree and more recently his post graduate masters degree in clinical biochemistry at the University of Papua New Guinea.
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6 Responses to Kukipi Health Centre Refurbishment – PART 1

  1. John West TORIE says:

    Proud of your work Dr. Rooney, in this speedy pace of life here in the bustling city (Port Moresby), we forget what is really important in life.
    I do hope that you and your colleagues work do make a change in the life of the people you meet, however small.

    Keep up the good work.
    J. W. TORIE.

    • Thank you John,

      It is indeed a great challenge in our rushed march for so-called “development” to overlook after our roots. The roots are always the most fragile, the most vulnerable, the ones with the quietest voices. Yet without these very fragile roots them there can be no tree there is no country, (at least not a healthy one). We must try where-ever we are to make a difference and create a more conducive environment for our roots to prosper. Many times there is no substitute for simply packing our backpacks and trooping out there into the remote villages, from our islands to our mountain tops to visit our fragile roots. If we look after our roots we will truly prosper if we don’t the prosperity we think we have now is but an illusion… Some of my happiest times are when I am in the remotest places in PNG, where the stars shine bright and the organic smell of the forest is palpably therapeutic.

  2. Agnes Soni says:

    Being there yourself and see the reality of how these people live, their hardship, way of life and knowing what their needs are proves to be a great story

  3. Jack Loko says:

    Dr Rooney, you and your colleges have done a very fantastic job by phisicaly being with the people,learning their life-styles and seeing their struggles long ever needed for permanent relief.
    That is a very good concept which Gulf Parliarmentarians must see and act accordingly. Meaning: “Stop leaving in the City lights but rather dwell amongst the fire lights with your people” so they can recieve first hand knowledge of what is to be done in order for better livelihood.

    thanks
    #Alsoanuritai#

    • Thank you,

      Since our trip I have heard that the health Centre has been refurbished. I would love to return there to see how the staff are going and what sort of support I can give. I run a private GP clinic at Korobosea and consult at PMGH as a clinical biochemist. A concept that I have been thinking about since my trip to Kukipi is some sort of an “adopt a rural health Centre program”. In a nutshell a private urban clinic will play a supportive role to a rural health centre. Support can be in many forms: including be available to give over the phone or internet advise whether it be clinical or administration, there may be supervisory visits, etc.

      Mr Look since you are from there maybe you could assist me to get this program off the ground. Sir Mekere Morata is a heavy weight power from that are too and perhaps we can get him excited about this idea too.

      Let me know what you think.

      Regards,

      Dr. Poyap J Rooney

  4. Jack Loko says:

    how Shall i be of aid?

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