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Lighting up Mama’s Waiting Hut

Story by Joy Sukaria

Senior Highlands Regional Gynaecologist, Dr. Freda Wemin, has contributed towards addressing the crises of high maternity death rate in Papua New Guinea (PNG) by initiating a project called the ‘Mama Waiting Hut’ to be establish within every rural community. This is to provide easy access for mothers in labour to deliver with proper assistance using a reliable source of light.

With funding support from MAF International for mini home solar kits and technical support provided by MAF Technologies, fifteen different health centres in the Eastern Highlands Province were the first few to have a Mama Waiting Hut set up within their community.

The need for solar solution

PNG has significant untapped energy resources, yet the development of these resources is lagging and the country’s electricity access is insufficient. It has been estimated that 87% of the population live off grid without access to electricity whiles only 13% of PNG’s 8.9 million people have access to grid-connected electricity. Therefore, the solar power solution provided by MAF is considered a necessity for labour wards not only within the Eastern Highlands Province Health facilities but the country’s health infrastructure.

“I never knew how challenging it was for mothers living in the remote community to seek proper help and assistance during labour and how much of an impact solar power would have on the health workers, the mothers and their unborn child until I myself did the installation for the Mama’s Waiting Hut lighting project.” – MAF Technologies Technician, Simeon Tom.

Simeon, who did the solar installations for the Mama Waiting Hut, witnessed firsthand the dire need for lighting at the labour wards and mama’s waiting huts, “The only source of light available were torch lights that the Community Health Workers (CHW) would use but once the battery goes off, they are left to rely on their mobile phone torch light which ran down the phone battery very quickly.” He added that this were usually the most stressful and challenging times for the mother and CHW since there are no reliable sources of light available to assist the mother deliver their new born baby.

Simeon concluded that a sense of relief was brought to the community health workers and the mothers living within the 15 locations where the Mama’s Waiting Hut lighting project was established because now, they have a 24/7 reliable solar power available to better assist and monitor pregnant mothers and their unborn children.

During the installation, a letter of gratitude was written from the Nupuru Health Centre, thanking MAF for sponsoring the installation for their labour wards and waiting huts:

“…Thank you for the Solar Light kit we received today under the Mama’s Waiting Hut lighting Project. You have met our difficulty with light during the night when we have labour patients. We just lost a mother last month partially due to the difficulty with lighting.

Once again, thank you very much…"

The Crisis of Maternity Death in the Country

No woman should die giving life. Nor should any woman see the child she has carried for nine months pass away because she could not get the help she needed while giving birth. ~ Nigel Spencer, CEO, ChildFund Australia

Findings from a new report by Child Fund Australia have revealed the rates of maternal death in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have stated that maternal health is an increasing concern yet is an unrecognized crisis in PNG.

Lack of safe and proper health infrastructure which include limited access to electricity power in the remote setting has resulted in women left vulnerable and without much choice but to give birth at home depending heavily on traditional birth attendants for assistance and without proper lighting.

The Benefits from the Solar Kits

Limited access to proper health centre with reliable electricity power has posed a great challenge for the health facilities that are located in the remote communities. The solar installation for the Mama Waiting Hut project in the Eastern Highlands Province not only benefits the health facilities and helps reduce the maternity death rates for the mothers and their unborn child, it also contributes towards sustainable development within the country where it has proven a great need.

With the support of MAFI and partnership with Dr. Wemin and the Provincial Health Authorities we hope to see more ‘Mama Waiting Hut’ project extend within other provinces in the country as this is an initiative that would benefit mothers and their unborn child and also contribute toward addressing the crisis of mortality death rates within the county of PNG.

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