Located in the highlands of the Gulf province, approximately 1,320 m above sea level with mild temperatures and a yearly rainfall of 4000-7000 mm. It can only be reached by plane as it is located in rugged mountainous terrain over 120 kms from the coast and 250 kms north-west of the capital Port Moresby.
Kanabea hospital and school
The local hospital is an old Catholic Mission Hospital, servicing a population of 20,000 people called ‘Kamea’. The hospital had its glory days some 30 years ago but since then it has been in serious decline. There is also a local primary school with 600 students.
The hospital and school buildings are in disrepair and there is no electricity. Communication is extremely difficult due to the unavailability of internet and no mobile phone reception.
Despite the lack of infrastructure, local people are keen to come to Kanabea, often walking for three days for medical services and education for their children.
The health situation is beyond belief. Malnutrition and stunted growth combined with preventable infectious diseases cause a high maternal and child mortality and life expectancy is low. The list of problems is infinite. All of this within 300 kilometres of Australia’s northern border!.
Since 2015 GP Dr. Jan Zomerdijk and his wife Janny have travelled every year to Kanabea in Kotidanga area, Gulf province, Papua New Guinea (PNG) to work as volunteers to help improve the local health services and education at the primary school. In 2019, Sue Auchter, a paediatric nursing practitioner from Tamborine Mountain joined the team.
Medical materials and equipment have been donated by TMMP to the hospital including an obstetric ultrasound, surgical supplies, baby and toddler weighing scales, stadiometer and baby clothes and blankets. Our volunteers have been assisting in the renovation of flooring, water pipes and hospital toilet and installation of solar LED lights in all wards of the hospital in 2019. TMMP donated funds towards this.
The Kanabea primary school has had education materials and soccer balls donated and 90 school backpacks for the children who have to walk to school for 3 days. Cement was also donated for the floors of 2 new classrooms.
Dr. Jan has provided primary health care for patients and reviewed the vaccination scheme. He also repaired the malfunctioning solar vaccination fridge.
Janny conducted research in the area of the nutritional status of Kamea mothers, infants and children and dietary diversity. This was done in collaboration with the University of PNG, School of Medicine, UNICEF and Iodine Global Network. The research identified a high prevalence of chronic malnutrition- stunted growth, anaemia and iodine deficiency among mothers, infants and children. Also very poor hygiene practices as less than 20% of households have a PIT latrine, the primary school has no working toilets and no access to a water tap. Research findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals. You can access the publications here UNICEF and Iodine Global Network are doing an intervention in early 2020 in the area with micro-nutrient supplements and deworming medication.
Another important activity has been medical and nutrition education for nursing staff who work in difficult circumstances with limited resources and education around Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to school teachers and students.
The complete absence of any power supply is a major barrier for the functioning of both the hospital and school. The hospital has 30 beds and provides a daily outpatient clinic as well as a regular antenatal and under-five clinic. Nursing staff also need to visit outlying areas to provide vaccinations.
The primary school provides education to nearly 600 students from a large geographical area where children walk up to three days to get to school and must board for the whole semester.
The local community has expressed the urgent need for a power supply. Power is essential for improving the running of the hospital, providing education at the school and communicating with the outside world. Our hope is that, if power can be supplied, the hospital will be able to employ a medical doctor again. At present one registered nurse and 9 community health workers run the small 30-bed facility.