How can there be no funds for rural health?

September 29, 2012 at 10:54 pm (Commentary, PNG Health)

Post-Courier 28/9/2012

The powers that be in PNG should take a lesson from the ‘terrible’ colonial times when most villages and hamlets were visited by health patrols at least once a year and often more so.

Get some patrol boxes and fill them with essential medicines and send them out by foot, canoe or car to the villages with medical assistants, orderlies, doctors or nurses. Just do it as it was done years ago!

Don’t sit around and talk about it. How long is it since Kekten in the upper reaches of the Keram River been without being visited by a medical patrol? I would think years!

Where are all the aid posts that existed in the old days?

Most PNG people live in rural areas, so surely they deserve health services.

Let’s forget the constant dribble we are all subjected to in the media and elsewhere about the evils of colonialism and get real about what exactly post-colonial administrations are actually delivering to their people.

But then again, I don’t want to get too carried away heralding colonialism as I’m sure many PNG people feel like Milton’s Lucifer, “It is better to Rule in Hell, than Serve in Heaven”.



  1. Antony Ruhan said,

    I’m not sure what you are advocating or whether you are just letting off steam. Foreign (European) powers took control of PNG (and many other societies). They made economic and military gains by doing so. They had little regard for the different cultures of the peoples whom they overpowered. When their position became unprofitable or unsustainable, they left the societies they had disrupted. Now outsiders see the evil results of that occupation for the whole society – not just some part of it.

    You do not mention the treatment of women, the crime, the undernourishment and many other parts of the life of societies once colonised and then abandoned. Has Iraq been better since the British left? Will Afghanistan be better once the foreign invaders have left? And so on.

    What is your point?

  2. Carolyn Leigh said,

    I can only speak for health care in the villages in the Sepik River area which lack consistent health care, education facilities and staff. Part of this is the problem of rural areas everywhere. It is difficult to get trained staff to relocated from towns and cities to work in villages. The government teachers and medical staff who do come, often find they have few supplies and their paychecks are late or stop altogether.

    This leaves the missions as the only reliable source in many areas. They often received funding from overseas. When that outside funding is curtailed, they suffer much the same problems as the government facilities. There is no way to raise enough cash funds in a village to keep Western style, or even barefoot doctor style facilities funded. So the schools, aid posts, etc. began to deteriorate and ultimately close without government or NGO funding. Not from lack of desire or training in the village, but simply lack of money.

    My observation is that government and NGO money seems to be spent on infrastructure that cannot be kept up without ongoing funds, salaries for temporary, often expat staff, and their associated equipment – most of it imported, housing, travel, etc. plus the often large amounts that seem to disappear into the many pockets of corruption along the way, including at the village level. Two stories that are not atypical.

    One expat nurse we met ultimately left in frustration. As she said, the amount that was spent to pay her, buy a car and hire a driver (which she didn’t want), rent her flat in town, etc. could have been given to the local nurse two hours drive away that she was suppose to train. The nurse was highly regarded, well-trained already and knew the problems that needed to be addressed much better than she did.

    A government worker in one village we visited had been given free condoms by one of the NGOs to hand out to help with the AIDS problem. However, he had not been paid in months and was selling them instead. Obviously, people understood the need for condoms or he wouldn’t have been able to sell them.

    These problems are pervasive at all levels. Very little reliable, long-term money actually makes it to the villages. The Sepik is a long way from Port Moresby.

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