The Accelerated Immunisation and Health Systems Strengthening (AIHSS) program supports provincial health authorities to deliver immunisation and is expected to reach more than 400,000 children.
The launch event was attended by Eastern Highlands Provincial Health Authority Chief Executive Officer, Dr Joseph Apa, Eastern Highlands Provincial Government representatives, Australian High Commissioner Jon Philp and local stakeholders.
Dr Apa said the program will support the Provincial Health Authority to sustainably strengthen delivery of routine immunisation and improve the key performance indicators in the province.
“This program will make sure that children have access to vital immunisation and are protected against a range of preventable diseases,” he said.
“It will also build capacity within our health authority, ensuring that these can be sustainably delivered into the future.”
The AIHSS program is an initiative of the PNG Government and supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand, and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance.
It is implemented by Provincial Health Authorities with technical support from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.
Australian High Commissioner, Jon Philp, said supporting the health sector is an investment in the health and wellbeing of Papua New Guineans.
“Investing in immunisation is one of the best value health interventions any government at any level can make because it reduces the burden of disease on families and reduces costs to the health system,” he said.
“The future of PNG depends on a healthy population.”
New Zealand High Commissioner Phillip Taula said the partnership is led by PNG agencies, including the National Department of Health and the Provincial Health Authorities.
“People in the provinces best understand the challenges and opportunities faced by their communities,” he stated.
“The leadership of the Provincial Health Authorities and support from local organisations, including churches and schools, is vital for this program’s success.”
Gavi spokesperson Anna Standerstkjold said the program is an important initiative to sustainably strengthen the delivery and coverage of routine immunisation across Papua New Guinea, including Eastern Highlands.
“Increasing immunisation coverage reduces childhood mortality and dramatically decreases incidences of deadly, debilitating and preventable diseases,” she stated.
“As children become healthier, they, their families, communities and countries are more able to be economically prosperous and socially stable.”
When the AIHSS program is completed in 2022, immunisation coverage rate will have increased to 80 percent – the rate recommended by the WHO to reduce illness, disability and death from preventable diseases like polio, measles, hepatitis B and tetanus.
(A mother and child visiting an immunisation tent in Lae)