by Quinton Alomp – EM TV News, Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea is still a long way from achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Goals four and five which aim to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health for mothers are far below target, at present.
Health Department Deputy Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala said children’s health and immunisation are both still a big concern, and PNG is not close to achieving these MDGs.
Dr Dakulala cannot confirm whether the statistics have improved recently, because of unavailability of correct statistics, but said the rate of maternal mortality is still high in PNG.
“Our maternal mortality rate is 700 out of 100,000, meaning 700 out of 100,000 mothers die from child birth related issues,” Dakulala said.
“If we don’t get to vaccinate all of our children and of course the mothers, then we will continue to not see the Millennium Development Goals being achieved.”
“Almost 20 years now since the MDGs were declared, and by 2015 we are still not able to successfully implement immunisation programs,” Dakulala said.
Currently, the immunisation program run by the health department and few non-government organisations only covers about 60 per cent of the country.
Given the country’s vast landmass and geographical challenges, the immunisation rollout programs vary in each province.
While provinces like Milne Bay, Mount Hagen, Simbu and Bougainville have good track records on immunisation, others like Western, Gulf, Southern Highlands and few in the Highlands still have to work hard to improve their records.
Health Department Expanded Program of Immunisation (EPI) Senior Technical Officer Johnny Arava said they are aiming to improve the statistics of low performing districts and provinces to at least 80 per cent.
New born babies and children up to five years of age are vulnerable, and are likely to die from preventable diseases like tuberculosis.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Technical Officer Dr Mohammad Salim Reza said this can be prevented if mothers and children receive immunisation.
While health indicators are still poor, the MDGs are all interrelated and have significant effects on each other.