In March 2020 Papua New Guinea reported its first case of the coronavirus. Since that time Live & Learn PNG has been working with local authorities and continuing its partnership with Plan International, with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to make COVID-19 a priority.
Many nations across the Pacific face the issue of insufficient medical staff and limited medical supplies. With a population of over 8 million people to an average of roughly 5,000 hospital beds it is vital to prevent hospitals in PNG becoming overwhelmed with cases. To do this Live & Learn PNG has committed to ensuring that people are equipped with the correct knowledge and supplies that they need to protect themselves and others from the virus.
In New Ireland Province Live & Learn has implemented COVID-19 training for eight schools, including establishing basic hand-washing facilities and providing soap. Awareness materials have been distributed around the capital Kavieng, at the local post office, police station, airport and in almost every shop in town. Posters and stickers were printed locally and 7 large banners have been displayed that discuss the importance of handwashing and social distancing. Live & Learn PNG has also been active on Facebook as part of this process, reaching more than 14,000 people with COVID-19 messages.
COVID-19 resources have been delivered by an awareness team, who at the time of writing have visited 6 villages to answer questions and demonstrating how to simple build tippy-taps for handwashing. Presentations involving all Live & Learn PNG staff have been conducted at the main market in Kavieng promoting similar messages.
Plans are in place to work with the New Ireland Council of Women to sell homemade soap and reusable sanitary pads with key COVID-19 messaging attached. This also serves the purpose of economic recovery for small roadside stall holders, who have lost their livelihoods not being able to sell betelnut and cooked foods.
Live & Learn PNG staff have been in discussion about the various scenarios that could play out over the coming weeks and what options, risks and opportunities could stem from that. Their work will be ongoing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and enhance awareness.
Live & Learn is providing access to COVID-19 resources contextualised for the South Pacific via our website. You can download the resources by clicking on this link: COVID-19 Resources
The COVID-19 activities have been implemented through the Resilient WASH in the Islands Region and Autonomous Region of Bougainville project, which aims to improve sustainable and inclusive access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and facilities with schools, clinics and communities in rural Papua New Guinea. The project is an Australian aid initiative implemented by Plan International Australia in partnership with Live & Learn Environmental Education on behalf of the Australian Government.