Located on the northern border of Oro Province is Manau – one of the most populated villages in Tamata Rural LLG.
When one approaches the shores of Manau, there to welcome the visitor is a big white cross located at the foot of a narrow path that leads to an Anglican church with its school and health centre. It is easy to imagine the relief that a woman in labour or a sick patient must feel when they see the cross on the beach – help is not far away.
Only for the last three years, that help has not been available in Manau. A catchment of over 16,000 people has been without access to healthcare since Manau Health Centre had to close its doors in 2015.
Manau Health Centre Secretary, Mr Barry Erai, said that there had been much suffering since the health centre closed.
“It is very hard to watch people here who are suffering, many cannot afford fuel to get to places like Lae or Popendetta where health services are available. The health centre here used to see between 300-400 patients a month.
“Last month we watched a young mother die from malaria – she left behind a baby only seven months old. This baby is now being raised by his grandmother,” said Barry.
In partnership with the National Department of Health and the Oro Provincial Government, YWAM Medical Ships has been dedicated to reaching rural and remote locations in Oro Province with limited access to healthcare and training. In this pursuit, a land-based YWAM team made initial contact with Manau in 2014 and, since that time, the YWAM Medical Ship, MV YWAM PNG has made annual visits to the area, mindful of the health facility closure and fragile situation for the community.
During the Training and Medical Ship’s most recent patrol to Oro Province this month, Manau was the focus of a week of healthcare clinics. The closed health centre came to life as the YWAM Medical Ships, Oro Provincial Health and Anglican Health Services team rolled up their sleeves and opened the doors to hundreds of men, women, and children from across the region. Almost 500 patients were seen.
Aboard the MV YWAM PNG for the patrol, was Mr Som Ninja – a nursing officer employed by Anglican Health Servcies who would soon call Manau home. Som, a passionate, young, clinician has been sent to re-open the health centre along with two other community health workers.
After persistent advocacy in recent years, the tide had begun to turn. To assist Som with the re-launch of the health centre, YWAM Medical Ships helped with the back-log of children that needed immunisations, treated sick patients, and installed a solar powered lighting kit to assist the health workers with late-night births and emergencies.
“There is a lot to be done here, the people have been without health services for a long time. I’m happy to have the help of YWAM to get the health centre started again.
“The solar lighting means that instead of using the light of a mobile phone – we can have light straight away by just turning on a switch, this will make a big difference to our service delivery,” said Som.
When Barry was asked how he felt about the health centre re-opening, he shares, “change is coming up, we are very hopeful.”
Manau Health Centre is now set to resume its services for a catchment of over 16,000 people. Just as the lights were turned on in the health centre this month, so was a light in the region. As the YWAM Ship pulled up anchor, those aboard farewelled Som and the local community with full hearts – knowing that the cross on the beach will now once again be a symbol that help is not far away.