A COMMUNITY health post will be established in Kalolo, in the Kagua Erave District, under a memorandum of understanding between the Southern Highlands Provincial Government, the Provincial Health Authority and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The closest existing health facility to Kalolo is 20 kilometres away and, owing to poor road conditions, can only be reached after four hours of walking.

In a Red Cross announcement, Provincial Health Authority chief executive Joseph Turian said that 17 of the 24 health posts in Kagua Erave District had ceased to function in the past 15 years, many of them deliberately targeted by fighting.

In times of conflict, health care is often the first public service to be lost and the last to be restored. In Kalolo and surrounding communities, the estimated 20,000 inhabitants have gone without a community health post for three years.

“Access to health care is under attack in the Highlands, and safeguarding it requires a determined effort from national and provincial authorities,” said signatory Gauthier Lefèvre, head of the ICRC’s mission in Papua New Guinea.

The ICRC, working in close partnership with the Southern Highlands Provincial Health Authority, will fund construction of the health post, which is expected to be opened within four months.

The project also enjoys strong support from local communities. Residents of Kalolo have chosen to call the health post Yakisu, which borrows syllables from the names of surrounding areas Yambaki, Yakira Creek and Suku Valley.

Governor of Southern Highlands Province William Powi said bringing back healthcare services to remote, violence-prone areas was one of the provincial government’s top priorities.

“The ICRC is helping us to do this, but it is up to us to provide the staff and manage the health post effectively for the future,” he said.

The Yakisu community health post will provide primary health care free of charge. Services will include maternity care, emergency care for life-threatening injuries, vaccinations and paediatrics.

The health post will also treat victims of sexual violence.

This initiative represents a further step in the ICRC’s efforts to promote access to health care in the region, after the opening of Uma community health post, also in Kagua Erave District, in 2014.

The ICRC recently conducted first-aid training courses in Kalolo and Batri for thirty participants. In 2015, it is planning to expand its activities to Hela and Enga Provinces as well.