PDH Quality Co-ordinator Volunteers on Kokoda Trail

Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Portland District Health quality coordinator Wendy Buckland realises she will be facing the challenge of a lifetime when she joins a volunteer health team in Papua New Guinea next year.

Not only will she have to be physically prepared for trekking up to five hours per day on the daunting inclines and humidity of the Kokoda Trail, Ms Buckland will be working in a country with some of the worst maternity mortality statistics in the world.

Ms Buckland will join a team of Volunteer Australian Clinical Professionals working under the banner No Roads To Health. She will be the only trained midwife on the nine-member team.

With statistics showing one in 20 PNG mothers die in pregnancy, one in 12 children die before five years of age, and infants are twice as likely to die before one year in rural areas. Ms Buckland is under no illusion about the difficulty of the task.

“I’m excited about the opportunity but also nervous,” she admitted.

Currently there is one community health worker per 2333 people in PNG, usually with a first aid certificate as their highest qualification.

 “We will be going to remote villages that have no hospitals or medical clinics and very basic Third World facilities,” Ms Buckland said.

The team will deliver targeted health programs, primarily in the most remote parts of the Kokoda Track.

“We hope to make sustainable changes that result in long-term health improvements for people living in the area,” Ms Buckland said.

Each team member is responsible for fund-raising about $5000 to self-fund their expedition costs. Ms Buckland will be conducting raffles and hosting a high tea and trivia night to raise funds.

“I have always wanted to volunteer abroad and this will certainly be a challenge. “I will have to build up my cardio endurance. We will be trekking for four days for four or five hours each day with a lot of inclines,” she said.

The expedition departs on March 14 next year and includes taking part in an outreach clinic in Port Moresby, travelling to the heart of the Kokoda Track and trekking through its toughest terrain to deliver a mentoring program to local community health care workers and targeted medical programs on behalf of AUSAID under the Kokoda Development Program, and delivering education programs throughout the villages – particularly in maternal and paediatric health.

No Roads to Health project manager Stewart Kreltszheim said the team had identified Ms Buckland’s skill set as critical to the success of the health expedition.

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