News release

ICRC Asia-Pacific chief calls for respect for health services

PORT MORESBY (ICRC) – Health services are a basic humanitarian right and communities must respect and look after their medical facilities, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)'s head of operations for Asia-Pacific said during a visit to the Papua New Guinea Highlands this week.

Boris Michel was speaking to the people of Kalolo in Kagua-Erave District in Southern Highlands Province on February 15 during a tour of the Geneva-based humanitarian organisation's operations in PNG.

Kalolo is the site of a health facility constructed in 2015 with the financial support of the ICRC. Once operational the centre will serve a local population of around 20,000 people.
"I heard about the people using their bare hands and sticks and shovels to clear this large area of land to build this facility," said Mr Michel. "This shows the people's commitment to the project and their desire to have health services in their area for their people."

Mr Michel, in the country as part of a tour that has taken him to Australia, India, Malaysia and Fiji, said promoting respect for health care services was a priority for the ICRC in its work across the globe, whether in this country or war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Provincial Health Authority, at least 17 of the 24 health posts in Kagua-Erave District have ceased to function in the past 15 years, many of them deliberately targeted by tribal fighting.

The people of Kalolo and surrounding communities have been without a community health post for four years.

The establishment also includes three staff houses and modern toilet facilities. Mr Michel toured the facility and said he was "greatly impressed" by the support of the community, which provided the land, carpenters to construct the buildings and security manpower to look after them during construction.

The facility is expected to become operational in 2016 once staff have been recruited. The people have chosen to call the health post "Yakisu", which is made of syllables from the names of surrounding areas of Yambaki, Yakira Creek and Suku Valley.

The ICRC funded the construction of the facility under an agreement signed with the Southern Highlands Provincial Government and the Provincial Health Authority in March 2015.

For further information, please contact:
Dan Waites, ICRC Port Moresby, tel. +675 708 80 624
Betty Oala, ICRC Port Moresby, tel. +675 709 93 061