Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

121018 - HOM Speech-Incentive Fund Project

Thursday 18 October 2012

Address by 
Australian High Commissioner, HE Mr Ian Kemish AM,
to launch the first stage of the Incentive Fund Project in support of Madang Catholic Health Services

Today I want to talk about Australia’s investment in Health. In doing so, I would also like to highlight the important partnership we have with the PNG Government and Churches, and efforts to address the country’s health challenges.
One of the biggest difficulties in PNG’s health sector is that it is under-funded.

The amount spent per person for basic health services is the lowest in the Pacific, and below the level set by the World Health Organisation. Under age five mortality rates are still very high, with close to 83 deaths per 1,000 live births. That’s nearly a one in ten chance of children not making it to their fifth birthday. It’s also grim for their mothers. It is estimated that every day in Papua New Guinea five women die either during pregnancy, while giving birth or soon after.

Systems do not exist in the PNG health sector to be able to procure and distribute drugs and medical equipment to hospitals, health centres and aid posts. A review of our Development Cooperation Treaty in 2010 has since led to a refocus of Australian support. Under the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership for Development, we are now concentrating our support in four key areas; Health & HIV, Education, Law and Justice and Transport and Infrastructure. Woven through these sectors are cross cutting issues of governance, gender and disability. This means that we are now doing more in fewer sectors, which we are confident will translate into better results.

This year the Australian Government contributed around K87 million to address HIV in Papua New Guinea and much of this goes directly to civil society organisations ranging from local faith –based organisations to international NGOs and small networks of people with HIV. Since 2007, the Australian Government has helped over 72,000 Papua New Guineans, including 11,000 pregnant women, to be tested for HIV. In 2010, the program helped more than 7500 Papua New Guineans access treatment for HIV. Furthermore, with Australia’s help, one million children have been immunised against measles and other childhood illnesses.

Australia will train 500 midwives between now and 2015. This is aimed at increasing the percentage of deliveries supervised by a trained nurse, midwife or doctor. AusAID has established a radio network in all health centres and some aid posts in every province, linking communities to trained health staff.

A shining example of the PNG-Australia partnership is the Incentive Fund, funded through the Australian Government Aid Program, AusAID. The Incentive Fund supports well-managed organisations to access funding for innovative projects that have a strong development impact for the men, women and children of Papua New Guinea. Of the 20 projects that the Incentive Fund supports in this current phase, I am pleased to say that 7 are within the Health Sector and 13 are in the Education sector. These are all infrastructure development projects, aimed at creating an environment for better service delivery.

For example, last week, 5 double story dormitories were opened at Divine Word University and will house up to 320 students. A highlight of this is the inclusion of ablution facilities and rooms for students living with disabilities.

Next month, the Vanimo General Hospital will be opening its refurbished child health and family planning centre, administration block and staff accommodation, worth K7.8 million The project aims to reduce sexual and gender based violence, increase access to survivor health care and counselling, improve staff morale and the number of nurses.

In Alotau, work on the Hospital Administration bloc and nurse quarters has already commenced and the Incentive Fund will be building maternity and medical wards and a radiology building.

The Catholic Health Services in Mt Hagen is also expected to benefit from K4.6 million, to also reduce mother and child deaths, increase immunisation and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS.

At this juncture, I would like to commend the important work of the Catholic Health Services. Collectively, churches provide half of the country’s health services, especially people in rural locations. We know that the churches work together effectively on a range of issues and are able to assess community needs and identify service gaps. Some of the important work that Churches contribute to include raising awareness about social injustices such as violence against women, helping to prevent the spread of HIV, reducing stigma and providing care and counselling for people living with HIV & AIDS. Churches also contribute to conflict prevention and peace building and they play an important role in human development, modelling good governance and advocating on governance issues.

Today, I am pleased to open the first phase of the rural health Infrastructure upgrade for the Madang Catholic Health Services. In this first phase of Stage 1, 11 staff houses across 3 districts (Madang Open, Sumkar & Bogia) and one Aid post have been constructed, at a cost of K1.3 million. In total for the 3 Stages, the Madang Catholic Health Services rural health infrastructure upgrade will cost K5.5 million.

This project aims to increase the number of people receiving health care, reduce the number of mothers and babies dying in Madang's four districts, increase the number of supervised deliveries, increase the number of women receiving antenatal and post natal care, improve Immunisation rates and keep staff satisfied within their jobs.

Since the year 2000, Australia has built about K350 million worth of health and education infrastructure in PNG through the Incentive Fund. Now in its third phase the Fund has an impressive record of achievements, and it continues to make a major contribution to the Australia and PNG partnership for development. We are proud that this partnership with PNG has delivered such strong results over a long period for the people of Papua New Guinea.