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Improving ante-natal care and increasing the number of women having a supervised birth

Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) high maternal and infant mortality rates remain a challenge. Women die every day in PNG from the complications of childbirth often because they are unattended by a health professional.

In Hela, the Provincial Health Authority (PHA) working together with Oil Search Foundation (OSF) and other partners was determined to improve ante-natal care and increase the number of women having a supervised birth.  By doing this they are confident that over time they can lower these high maternal and infant mortality rates.

Public Health Medical Officer conducting an ante natal check

Hela PHA CEO, Dr James Kintwa said, “We wanted to increase the number of mothers to have a supervised delivery and encourage pregnant women to go for routine checks during their pregnancies. But to achieve this change, a holistic approach was needed across our health system, and the PHA could not do this alone.

Working with partners like OSF to change this situation, the PHA had to improve the poor state of some facilities. Together we renovated and built new maternity wards and birthing rooms, purchased delivery beds and installed and made sure water supplies and power were connected and working.

“There was also the need to train our Community Health Workers (CHW) in basic and emergency obstetrics care, using the CHW Midwifery upskilling program – a curriculum approved by the PNG Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology to fill the midwifery skills capacity gaps in health facilities. As a result, 13 community health workers from nine remote facilities in Hela were trained and are now supporting women to have healthy pregnancies and safe births.”

“We are now equipped with the right knowledge and skills to support women through their pregnancies and reduce the risks of unwanted deaths of mother and baby.”
- Kency Terrance CHW, Hangapo Health Centre in Tari district

OSF Executive Director, Stephanie Copus-Campbell said, “the PHA has seen great results, by the end of 2020 Hela saw an 8% increase in the supervised delivery and ante natal clinic first visit by 7%. Today, women in Hela have a much better chance of having their babies safely.