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Community health workers in Hela Province have completed obstetrics skills training, improving their ability to provide vital antenatal care and birthing support to pregnant women in remote communities.

The intensive six-month training was part of the Wok Bung Wantaim health program, which is supported by the Australian Government and Oil Search Foundation in partnership with the PNG Government.

Wok Bung Wantaim improves frontline health services through strong partnerships in Hela and Southern Highlands. It includes a focus on addressing the limited access to skilled health workers for birthing – a contributor to the high maternal death rate in PNG.

Dr Sylvester Tati, obstetrician and gynaecologist with the Hela Provincial Health Authority, led the initiative and understands the challenges for women in his community.

He said community health workers are vital parts of the rural health system and building their obstetric skills can save lives when doctors and midwives are not present in remote areas.

The six participants were able to successfully complete their studies despite the challenging conditions of Covid-19, by practicing social distancing and undertaking periods of remote learning.

Dr Tati commended their strong commitment to learning and said they will assist many women to have healthy pregnancies and safe childbirth experiences.

“These six community health workers will each work with hundreds of women and their babies over the course of their careers,” he said. “That is many, many lives saved – the investment in only one student is important, the investment in six will make a significant difference.”
- Dr Sylvester Tati Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with the Hela Provincial Health Authority

One of the graduates, Priscilla Makando challenged her colleagues to use the skills acquired to help pregnant mothers during antenatal clinics, labour and after birth. She said, “no matter how difficult the day may be, you will touch a life, or a life will touch you.”