A VILLAGE health volunteer (VHV) from Inderi Village in the Lamari local level government of Obura-Wonenara District, Eastern Highlands, was calling on the government to support the work of volunteers like herself.
Penina Butundo (left nursing baby), has been volunteering as a village birth attendant (VBA) in her local village (Inderi) for the last 20 years.
“Young women with first time pregnancies and especially those in remote areas desperately need the help of well-trained personnel when it comes to delivering their babies”, she said.
“Like Inderi, I know that most villages have no access to Aidposts and health workers. The very first individuals to help mothers during their pregnancy and also during labour are the village health volunteers.”
“Despite the many challenges, we serve our village and community, when there is no health worker, and there is no support coming from the government to help us in this role", she said.
Last year, Butundo assisted a 20 year old mother, Marin Taroa, deliver a healthy baby boy at Inderi. However, Taroa experienced retained placenta, and was brought to To’Okena sub-health centre, run by the Evangelical Brotherhood Church (EBC).
Due to a shortage of medical supplies at the sub-health centre, a message was relayed by a community health worker to Manolos Aviation, to evacuate the mother.
Thanks to a partnership between Manolos and the Obura-Wonenara District Development Authority (DDA), the mother was medevaced to Angau Provincial Hospital in Lae on Sunday Feb. 22, 2020.
“I was cautious of singlehandedly removing the placenta at the time, mainly because the mother was young and it is risky to attempt the procedure outside a proper health facility,” Butundo recalled.
“There is no Aidpost or clinic at Inderi. I have assisted mothers who delivered their babies on empty stockfeed bags, on banana leaves and it is not healthy for both the mother and baby.”
She said the number of young girls getting pregnant is increasing, and there must be a way to help them deliver their baby in a safe environment.
“We have the To’Okena sub-health centre, but it is a two hours walk from Inderi, and many mothers are young and illiterate and never go for antennal clinics."
Butundo's resolution is to have temporary 'haus mama' in villages, with good beds and good seats, to assist mothers. Taroa is one of over 200 mothers that Butundo had assisted in her capacity as a VBA.