During Outreach 7 to the Western Province, two midwives, Jenny Sutherland, from Dunkeld, Victoria and Naomi Colwell from Townsville, Queensland, volunteered on the YWAM Medical Ship and were members of the Primary Health Care team.
In each of the 4 villages the ship visited, Jenny and Naomi were able to provide health checks to pregnant mothers and educate them on topics such as nutrition, family planning, anaemia, malaria prevention, and the appropriate time to seek out medical assistance. Adequate health care is difficult to access in many areas of the Western Province; so many of the pregnant women had very little, if any, antenatal care in their pregnancy.
Part of the antenatal health check involved listening to the baby’s heartbeat. “As soon as the baby’s heartbeat would thump through the fetal Doppler, the woman’s eyes would light up and she’d give me a big smile. It was a very special moment to be a part of,” said Naomi.
Jenny and Naomi also held education sessions with the traditional birth attendants and health workers on issues relating to labour, birth, and immediate care of the newborn. They were able to distribute birthing kits, which contain a sheet of plastic, gloves, soap, 3 pieces of string, a razor blade and gauze.
“Many women give birth to their babies on banana leaves and cut the umbilical cord with a shell. These few simple items will make the birth process cleaner and safer for the mother, baby, and the traditional birth attendant,” explained Jenny.
Improved midwifery care is an area of great need in rural and remote areas of PNG; many women and babies die during childbirth. Naomi said, “These pregnant mothers and babies want to live. By educating the mothers and traditional birth attendants, we are helping to save not one life, but two. Helping to bring life to the next generation of a nation like PNG is no small thing.”