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two women standing outside a family support centre

With International Women’s Day coming up on Sunday, it’s worth noting that the Family Support Centre (FSC) at Hela Provincial Hospital is busier than ever before.

Managed by Hela Provincial Health Authority (PHA), the FSC saw an 85% increase in clients throughout the course of last year. OSF also supports the FSC with additional staff to run public health awareness, counselling and preparation of medical reports.

More than 1,100 new clients received support through the FSC in 2019.   In addition, it also delivered over 2,700 services to these new and existing clients.

“We have been very busy lately,” confirms the Nurse Unit Manager, Sister Claire Lembo. “Every month, we are seeing around 100 survivors of sexual, family and domestic violence, and sometimes general violence and child abuse. Fortunately, we can offer them a with a wide range of services, from medical care, counselling, and contraception, to clothes, books and a safe place to shelter.”

If they are sexual violence cases, we are also careful to provide medication to prevent women from being infected with sexual transmitted diseases like HIV,” she adds.

The FSC also provides medical and social assessments to assist in the prosecution of perpetrators. Such assessments can also help District Courts decide whether to issue protection orders.

Some may wonder whether the recent surge in clients reflects an increase in family and sexual violence across Hela, or just a greater willingness to seek help?

“It is impossible to say without more baseline data,” says Hela PHA CEO Dr James Kintwa, “but the fact that more survivors of violence are coming definitely shows that they are more aware that there are services that they can access, and that is definitely a good thing.”

This trend is very consistent with the international experiences of family and sexual violence services; often for the first time.

Part of this increasing awareness may be due to the ongoing community outreach campaigns being conducted by the Hela PHA Public Health and FSV teams with the support of OSF. “Our province-wide program of awareness raising-activities reached more than 8,000 people over the course of last year” Dr Kintwa confirms.

Dr Kintwa expects that with increasing awareness the Centre’s caseload will increase yet again throughout 2020 and grow still more in the decade to come. Two additional Family Support Centres are being established by the Hela PHA in Margarima and Koroba.

OSF’s Executive Director, Stephanie Copus-Campbell said, “The 2016 PNG Demographic Health Survey found that around 58% of PNG women experience violence at some point in their lifetimes. These sorts of statistics are simply not acceptable.  We will continue to work with our partners nationally and provincially to address funding needs and support for services that meet the needs of survivors.  This includes support for people who are seeking assistance to change violent behaviour.”

“But in the meantime, I think that this Sunday is a great time to celebrate people like Sister Claire and her team - who, no doubt, will be hard at work!”
- Stephanie Copus-Campbell Oil Search Foundation Executive Director