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By Harlene Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 10, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Empowering Papua New Guinean individuals and families with healthy choices is on the 10-year (2001-2010) PNG National Health Plan's priority list.

The other priorities include family health, focusing on women and children's health, and control of priority diseases such as malaria and AIDS, improvement of water supplies and sanitation, improvement of health worker competency, improvement to access to medicines and strengthening of district health center and hospital services and partnerships.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta launched the plan at the Islander Travelodge at a function attended by nearly 500 people who represent the health sector. He commended the Health Department, saying they are doing a fine job.

He officially launched the health plan by giving oral vaccination to one-month-old Vicky Napoleon.

Sir Mekere said that despite the poor status of health in PNG, which has been well publicized and acknowledged, there have been some advances.

"In terms of diseases, leprosy and polio are almost eradicated and PNG recently met the World Health Organization’s criteria for the elimination of leprosy. National immunization days have been successful and the national center for promotion is now producing high quality and relevant communication materials. There has been an increase in the number of health patrols, and extension services are being rebuilt," the Prime Minister said.

But he said there is "an enormous area to cover."

He said the National Health Plan was developed entirely by the Health Department and departmental staff had done a fine job, especially to ensure that the plan was built around comprehensive consultation, particularly with the provinces.

* Australia's financial commitment to the health sector has doubled over the last two years and will be "solid and long term," AusAID representative Margaret Regnault told participants attending the second day of the National Health Conference. She said that between 1998 and 1999, Australia spent around A$ 22 million (K 30 million/US$ 12,809,324)) on health in PNG. This year A$ 43.5 million (around K 60 million 25,327,527) is expected to be spent. 

"We expect this to continue to grow over the next few years," she said.

She also commented that the launch of the first National Health Plan of the new millennium marks the conference as a truly significant event in the development of PNG. She reaffirmed AusAID's commitment as a partner in implementing the National Health Plan.

The areas that AusAID will support include the Health Services Support Program, The Women's and Children's Health Project, the National HIV/AIDS Support Project, the medical officers, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences Training, Phase2 of MONAHP and the area of pharmaceuticals.

Other activities supported by Australia include the Institute of Medical Research's Malaria Vaccine Field Trials, the Tertiary Health Services project and the Department of Health Initiatives Funds.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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