By Vasinatta Yama – EMTV News, Mt Hagen
UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Director, Karin Hulshof, recently visited Topa village in Southern Highlands Province, one of the affected areas from the 2018 7.5 magnitude earthquake.
UNICEF set up a number of projects at Topa Primary school in Upper Mendi, to bring back normalcy to the area to help mothers and children get over trauma caused by the earthquake. UNICEF PNG Representative, Davi McLoughlin also visited the affected area.
A highlight of UNICEF’s earthquake program is the setting up of a Child-Friendly Space area for children aged one to five years old, to engage in joyful and fun-filled activities to help lessen the fear, anxiety, and trauma caused by last year’s earthquake. It serves to build resilience and bring normalcy in the lives of children.
The Child-Friendly Space was set up by UNICEF’s Child Protection team, established under the Lukautim Pikinini Act, as a case management centre for children in need of protection from abuse, violence, exploitation, and disaster. A temporary learning space was also built for schools damaged by the earthquake to quickly return to normal classes.
UNICEF also launched the Water and Sanitation Hygiene program at Topa for children to participate in the WASH project. During the visit, the children demonstrated to the UNICEF team and the Southern Highlands Provincial Government, the ten steps to wash their hands after using the toilet or before eating.
Four pit toilets were built for the school including two Tuffa tanks given by UNICEF for the school’s hygiene program.
UNICEF is working with the National and Provincial Governments to ensure that health centres and communities have the capacity to detect and treat life-threatening malnutrition to children below the age of five.
The UNICEF team also visited the nursery and delivery wards at Mendi General Hospital to promote its Infant and Young Child Feeding program among children under the age of two. Over 23, 000 children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers have already befitted from this intervention.
All these interventions have helped Topa Primary school increased its enrolment from over 500 students to 600 students after the earthquake. The Topa community and parents also contributed K50 each, to build new classrooms to replace the damaged buildings and cater to the growing number of children.