Unidentified Disease Affecting PNG’s Western Province

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Ok Tedi Development Foundation held responsible for deaths

By Neville Togarewa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 7, 2012) – Leaders in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province including Members of Parliament are very concerned about reports that women are dying from what they have described as "abnormal bleeding" from a cause or causes that are yet to be identified.

And they have called on the authorities, especially Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF), to urgently do something to prevent more deaths.

Member for North Fly and Minister for Arts, Culture and Tourism Boka Kondra, South Fly MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aide Ganasi, and Member for Middle Fly Roy Biyama made the call yesterday.

"Women are dying from abnormal bleeding along the banks of the South Fly River system and Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF) does not seem to be doing anything about it," the leaders said.

OTDF is responsible for the implementation and delivery of impact projects along the Fly River and the mine-impacted villages of Western Province.

Their call comes four months after a general health investigation report was submitted. The health investigation was conducted among the people of Suki Fly Gogo and Manawate regions from April 24 to May 4 this year. The report was done by OTDF officers Michael Gen and James Yore, for capacity building project and monitoring and evaluation respectively.

According to MPs Kondra, Ganasi and Biyama, the report was presented to the then OTDF team leader for community development and acting capacity project program manager, Bill Rua, after a request from the Suki Fly Gogo and Manawate Women’s Association executive members.

Mr. Rua then presented the report to OTDF chief executive officer Ian Middleton who said they are yet to act on the report.

Mrs. Nareme Makai, the women’s and children’s rep., confirmed yesterday that a number of women, and children, have died since the report was submitted four months ago.

"We have been patiently waiting for OTDF to act upon the report and bring the medical assessment team to confirm the reports. Now we are forced to seek government support but due to lack of medical services in the region, we are being sent to Kiunga which is costly." She said.

The people have requested for immediate attention as a result of what they claim are daily reports of abnormal bleeding from young women and lumps on young children and adults.

This includes ulcers that are prevalent among users of the Fly River.

This is also a normal occurrence for water users of the Fly River. The health investigation report by OTDF covered 35 villages.

The total population of the Continuation Mine Community Agreement (CMCA) region is about 70, 000.

The methods used in the investigation focused on group discussion with 4-5 hours of questions and answers with respect to variety of diseases from personal hygiene, family planning, general health service, diet and safe water.

Three villages were visited and health investigation conducted.

The findings show health services throughout the two regions have been allowed to deteriorate to a below average national rate. According to the investigation report, many people have died from curable diseases; health facilities are at an appalling state; there is inconsistency of drug supply; staff absenteeism; women dying from loss of blood; and only half of the children under the age of one year receive their immunization vaccines.

"This is a serious problem and OTDF and relevant government authorities must do something now before more of our people die," she said.

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