Over the past five weeks, Almah Kuambu has been busy travelling all over Papua New Guinea to deliver much needed prosthetic and orthotic outreach services. Usually based in the capital of Port Moresby, Almah is the Technical Advisor from the National Orthotics and Prosthetics Service (NOPS), which operates from 7 locations across Papua New Guinea.
Thanks to the flexible funding from the Government of Israel, Almah has travelled across land and sea to visit the remote communities in Rabaul, Popondetta, Kimbe and Madang.
Papua New Guinea is a beautiful country, spanning more than 600 islands, many covered by dense jungle and mountainous terrain. This can make traveling very difficult, especially for those living with a disability. Furthermore, underlying issues of tribal conflict and social expectations of women and children can compound the barriers, making travel dangerous or impossible.
For many people, outreach visits provide the only opportunity to access services.
In late May, Almah conducted the first ever NOPS outreach trip to the village of Rabaul, on New Britain Island. During her visit, Almah was surprised at the lack of awareness of available rehabilitation services among local communities.
Joan is a young woman who had her left leg amputated in 2011. For the next four years she attended school and higher education using crutches. She was unaware of her ability to access prosthetic services until a chance conversation with a lecturer, who told her about NOPS. Her discovery of NOPS and the subsequent services she received have impacted her life significantly.
Joan’s story is just one example of the need to raise awareness of rehabilitation services throughout Papua New Guinea, especially in rural areas. Outreach is one of the most effective ways to show people what is possible.
Whenever an outreach visit is conducted to a small village, the whole village comes out to see what is going on. Often, the whole village will be involved in the person’s care and word of NOPS services quickly spread throughout the community – increasing awareness and demand for services.
Whilst in Popondetta in June, Almah met with the Chair Lady to Women with Disabilities Network PNG, Sommerville. Sommerville has a lower limb discrepancy and has been a huge advocate for people living with disability in her region.
In 2020 advocated for the Mapex Training Institute to open in Popondetta. The Institute provides training courses for the many people living with a disability in the local area. Sommerville’s activism has opened the door for many people to study, develop their skills, and change their lives.
Almah also met Delma in Popondetta. Delma was injured in 2007 and had a leg amputation to save her life.
Delma has raised her three children mostly as a single mother, often being denied employment due to her disability. Despite the adversity, Delma has proudly encouraged her children to stay in school, and strives to one day become an economist or human rights lawyer.
There are significant costs to conducting outreach visits. Flights, fuel, and accommodation need to be covered for the staff to travel.
NOPS’s outreach services were boosted this year, thanks to the funding of the Government of Israel. Their continuing support for community outreach activities has been invaluable and has enabled Almah and other NOPS staff to provide essential care to people like Joan, Sommerville and Delma.
“A big thank you to the Israel Government for funding the NOPS outreach visits to various places in PNG over the past five weeks. This has given us the opportunity to meet the CEOs of the provincial health authorities to discuss the short and long term plans of setting up NOPS within the province.
Carrying out follow up visits with clients has been truly amazing because we get to listen to stories from women and men. Such stories are really beneficial to NOPS, as it helps to shape conversations and decisions at different levels of the health rehabilitation service delivery mechanism in PNG.”
Almah Kuambu, Technical Advisor, National Orthotics and Prosthetics Service
Women, children, people living with disability, and those living in rural and remote areas face additional barriers to accessing appropriate health care. Outreach provides a way to break many of those barriers.