IOM, UNFPA and UNICEF will work with the Western Provincial Government, including the Western Provincial Health Authority, the North Fly District Government, the Catholic Diocese of Daru and Kiunga, and other national and local partners. The funding will assist these partners in addressing needs for water and sanitation, nutrition and maternal and neonatal health as part of their ongoing COVID-19 response.
In announcing the funding, UN Resident Coordinator, Gianluca Rampolla, acknowledged the unique challenges faced by the response team in Western Province.
Western completed a province-wide awareness campaign within the first two weeks of the State of Emergency and has identified three isolation centres in addition to triage facilities in major hospitals through initial funding support of K5.5m from the province’s political leaders.
In assessing the impact of the COVID-19 response, the provincial government identified challenges in reaching marginalised groups and providing basic health services while movement was restricted. This new funding is an opportunity to address these impacts and to benefit some of the most remote communities in Papua New Guinea.
Border communities, which have cultural and economic ties with neighbouring Papua province in Indonesia, and which have hosted asylum seekers and refugees from there, are especially at risk to COVID-19. Papua provinces is one of the hot spots in Indonesia.
The announcement was made during the UN Resident Coordinator’s first visit to Western Province where he was joined by IOM Country Representative, Lance Bonneau, and UN Humanitarian Coordination Specialist, Richard Higgins. The team met with James Donald, Member for North Fly District, Provincial Administrator Robert Alphonse Kaiyun and COVID-19 Provincial Task Force Chair, Michael Viriu. The team also met with Bishop Gilles Côté to discuss how Church health clinics will be supported with this new funding.
“This money will help vulnerable border communities address some critical secondary impacts of COVID-19,” Rampolla said.
“With lockdowns and government's focus on protecting its people, we also want to make sure access to basic services, including nutritious food and maternal services, is scaled up. There is also a critical need to rapidly improve access to clean water and sanitation.
“It is important that everyone, including asylum seekers, benefit from this assistance.”
Provincial Administrator Robert Alphonse Kaiyun stressed the need to strengthen partnerships which would enable the provincial government to improve services for the people that live in a vast and challenging part of the province.
“We see these interventions as part of a larger focus on finding a new normal for our province amidst our ongoing development plans,” said Kaiyun.
Highlighting the unique characteristics of Western Province and its diverse population, he also noted that, “our approach has always been our own--not 'cut and pasted' from others. We welcome collaboration from the UN and other partners to help us meet our goals”.
About the Secretary General’s Response and Recovery Fund
The United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund is a UN inter-agency fund mechanism established by the UN Secretary-General to help support low- and middle-income programme countries overcome the health and development crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and support those most vulnerable to economic hardship and social disruption. The Fund delivers up to USD $1 million for communities to address these challenges.
COVID-19 in Western Province
Western Province remains one of the most-at-risk regions of Papua New Guinea with respect to COVID-19. 1,200 samples have been collected and three initial positive cases have returned negative results in subsequent testing.
The frequency of movement across the border with Indonesia has been cause for concern at the provincial and national level. The Catholic Diocese of Daru and Kiunga and Western Province COVID-19 Committee Chair have identified five border communities that are particularly in need of integrated interventions in WASH, nutrition and maternal and new-born health: Matkomnai, Kungim, Membok, Rumginae and Katawim. Each of these communities hosts an aid post or basic health sub-centres that serve surrounding villages.
“We welcome this assistance from the UN, which comes at a critical time,” Viriu said. “While we are preparing ourselves and trying to protect our residents from widespread infection, we are mindful of the impacts these measures have on other aspects of people's lives and our economy.”
(Dr Kevin Pondikou from Rumginae Health Centre explaining the location of his hospital and its coverage area [all the red dots], serving more than 29,000 people. Physically visiting all the aid posts without a chopper is impossible. It would take one week just to walk to the farthest ones. Dr Pondikou and his team are expected to benefit from this support from the UN)