Papua New Guinea: Kalolo clinic opening a cause for celebration

11 October 2016

The people of Kalolo, in Kagua-Erave District of Southern Highlands Province, and surrounding communities are no strangers to the consequences of violence. In 2011, a tribal fight in the nearby village of Batri resulted in the destruction of the only health post serving the area. As a result, for several years, residents of the region were forced to walk up to 20km to the nearest health facility for medical attention.

Until now. Yakisu Sub-Health Centre is the result of collaboration between the ICRC, the local health authorities and NGOs Partner Housing Australasia and Vision for Homes, not to mention the local community. The name "Yakisu" is a composite – it refers to the Yakira River and Suku Valley, the catchment area the facility serves. It symbolises the unity of these communities, who have put conflict behind them and will all now seek care at Yakisu.

Needless to say, the official opening of the centre on 30 September, 2016 was cause to celebrate. More than a thousand people from the area gathered to join the festivities, some walking several kilometres to attend the event. Several sing-sing groups performed in full costume. After speeches and the cutting of the ribbon – by Acting CEO of Southern Highlands Provincial Health Authority Dr Joseph Birisi and the ICRC's head of WatHab activities for Asia Pacific, Veronique Weber Oviedo Pinto – the day ended with a feast: 14 pigs and a cow, roasted underground in a traditional style oven known as mumu.

The new clinic will provide vaccinations, child health support, maternity care, family and sexual violence support and emergency care for life-threatening injuries. The project has been the result of months of hard work, but despite the logistical challenges of constructing and equipping such facilities in the PNG Highlands, it was finally completed and staffed in July and now serves around 20,000 people in the area.