By Vasinatta Yama – EMTV News, Mt Hagen
Western Highlands Province is the first in the country to launch the ‘Saving Lives, Spreading Smiles’ project by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the National Department of Health.
It is a maternal and newborn-care program which was launched yesterday(September 19), in Mt Hagen.
Newborn babies were given a wristwatch each which will alert parents when a baby gets too cold for comfort.
The program ‘Saving Lives, Spreading Smiles’, focuses on preventing newborn babies from dying in their first months of life of low body temperature, or neonatal hypothermia.
Newborn babies will be given an alert device called Bebi Kol Kilok, which is worn on the wrist, and from which an alarm will go off when the baby’s body temperature gets too cold.
The program also focuses on managing bleeding after delivery, a common cause of death amongst Papua New Guinea mothers. Mothers will use a Non-Pneumatic Anti-Shock Garment.
In 2017, UNICEF, the National Health Department, and WHO successfully piloted phase one of the program.
The Australian Government funded K11 million to support this program, with help from UNICEF Australia, has enabled the program to expand to the rest of the country.
The program will ensure that up to 34,000 newborn babies in Western Highlands Province will receive a comprehensive care package to ensure they survive.
Low body temperature or cold, is the main cause of death for newborn babies in PNG.
Tambul Nebilyer is the first electorate to be selected to pilot this project since it is the coldest place in Papua New Guinea.
Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority Acting CEO, David Vorst, said they have been working hard to reduce maternal and child mortality.
The mortality rates were now nearly a third lower, than the national average.