Image: High Commissioner Davis in the Burnet Laboratory in Kokopo with HMHB staff including lab technician Ruth Fidelis (second from right)
Australia’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Mr Bruce Davis, learned more about the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies project during a visit to Burnet Institute’s facilities in Kokopo, East New Britain this week.
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Liaison Officer Pele Melepia briefed Mr Davis on stage two of this important five-year collaborative research program to address PNG’s maternal mortality rate that’s one of the highest in the world.
Mr Davis was impressed by the innovative partnership.
“The program has been effective in bringing public, private, research, church and community sectors together,” the High Commissioner said. “This combination of different resources, skills and local and international expertise and know-how is a model that can be used in many other settings.”
The High Commissioner met project team members and field workers who demonstrated and described their roles on the frontline to improve reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health outcomes in PNG.
Image: High Commissioner Davis meets children and villagers at Tagitagi No.1
Laboratory technician Ruth Fidelis showed Mr Davis around Burnet’s Kokopo laboratory, which is the centrepiece of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies project and supports Burnet’s Home Management of Malaria (HMM) program.
She described laboratory capacity as a critical resource in a country where high-quality facilities are scarce.
“What you really want is all the elements of research, all together in the environment that you are doing the work, and this laboratory helps to provide that,” Ms Fidelis said.
Image: Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Liaison Officer Pele Melepia presents High Commissioner Davis with a traditional gift of shell money or ‘Tabu’
“It’s an important facility in its own right, but its support for Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and our other projects such as HMM is invaluable.”
The lab is used to test and store blood and other samples collected from pregnant mothers and babies, along with tests for malaria, tuberculosis, low birth weight, and anemia, and for training local personnel.
The High Commissioner’s day included a visit to St Mary’s Hospital, the Paparatava Health Clinic, a Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies research partner, and warm welcome from the village of Tagitagi No.1, which participates in the Home Management of Malaria project.