Emotional measles campaign for CHW

After graduating from the Braun Health Centre in Finschhafen, Morobe Province, Daphne Kahu went into the unexplored and untouched Menyamya District to work as a Community Health Worker in 1980.

In 1981, children started dying from an unknown illness, which caught the attention of International partners.

From the isolated village of Menya, in Concordia, the illness spread to other centres, like Port Moresby.

Emotionally retelling her story during the commemoration of International Nurses Day, Kahu, who is now 590-years-old, said during that time, she had the privilege of working with officers from the World Health Organisation and The Salvation Army.

Disla taim mi bin 16 years old,” she said. “And they thought the measles outbreak was diphtheria and we had to dig the bodies out from the grave.

“People from WHO flew in from America, Australia…they came and we exhumed the bodies.

“They took samples and tested them and found out that it was measles. Today, we are lucky that we have measles vaccine.”

Starting her health career in 1979, it was all about having the heart to serve; with Kahu saying back then, the people of Menyamya were nomads so it was difficult for the five nurses and a female New Zealand officer to track them down and persuade them to let their children be vaccinated against measles.

With food rations and vaccines slung over their backs, the all-female team would climb mountains, trek through thick jungles and cross rivers to literally, reach the unreached.

Kahu spent almost 10 years in Menyamya District, found her husband there and delivered her first child at Menyamya’s Aseki Health Centre.

She turns 60 in September, and has already submitted her forms for retirement.

Her parting advice to young health workers is to forget about personal benefits but instead, heed the motto of the nursing profession, which is: “To Serve”.