Village birth attendant shares her story

Betty Yawa is a certified village birth attendant at Aseki in rural Morobe Province.

While she does her utmost best to carry out her duty, her district’s infrastructural challenges place her patients’ lives at risk.

Village birth attendants play a critical role as they contribute toward an improvement in PNG’s maternal morbidity and mortality in remote areas.

Yawa, from Menyamya’s Nanima-Kariba Rural LLG, fights tooth and nail to save mothers and their babies. Her job turns into a nightmare for her and her charges as Aseki has no proper road while the nearest health centre lacks obstetrics and gynaecology equipment.

The only way to access better health services is to travel the rough roads down to Lae, and only if they can secure a vehicle for the one-day trip.

Yawa further highlighted the challenge and discrimination faced when transporting her patients via coffee vehicles, as PMVs refuse to commute along their route. One cannot imagine how uncomfortable and painful the drive will be for mothers and patients as they sit atop coffee bags with other passengers.

Sampla ol save karim pikinini namel lo rot. Ol man i gat kar ol save krosim mi, mi nogat breins,” she said. (Some give birth in the middle of the road. Vehicle owners get frustrated and get on me, saying I don’t have brains.)

“Ol korosim mi tasol mi save tok fait wantem ol man i gat kar, mipla gat bikpla hevi olsem na mi tingting lo seivim laif blo ol lo bikpla haus sik na mi kisim ol i kam. Yupla sori lo mi na yupla noken korosim mi.” (They get cross to me but I argue with them, telling them we have a situation here where their lives need to be saved in the hospital that is why I’m bringing them along. They need to sympathise with me and not argue with me.)

Yawa shared the story of a woman from a nearby village who lost her baby in 2019 due to the bumpy road.

“Mi stretim pipia blo em; bebi dai insait pinis. Mi tokim draiva lo tanim bek i kam na bringim mitupla lo helt senta blo mitupla.” (I cleaned up after her; the baby had already died in the womb. I told the driver to turn back and leave us at our health centre.)

This is just one of the many scenarios faced by mothers in remote PNG. For the people of Aseki and Menyamya district as a whole, a proper road would go a long way in reducing their morbidity and mortality rate.

Carmella Gware