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Australia's Aid to PNG

QUESTION NUMBER 5 - SENATE FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES HEARING

Senator Hanson-Young asked AusAID in writing on 13 February 2011:

A recent report by the World Bank has described the situation in PNG in relation to family planning as "a National Emergency", noting that family planning coverage in PNG is approximately only 20 per cent of married couples and that there is an estimated unmet need of 44 per cent of married women who would like access to family planning. As family planning is one of the two most cost effective interventions for reducing PNG's high MMR what is the Australian aid program, as the largest bilateral donor to PNG, doing to address MDG 5 and the critical unmet need for family planning?

Answer:

Maternal and infant health are key priorities for AusAID. The Australian Government is working with the Government of PNG to address poor maternal health through improving the percentage of births supervised by skilled attendants. Australia's support to the PNG health sector helps build an effective health system, which is essential for women to have a safe pregnancy and childbirth. In 2010-11, Australia will provide $43 million for health in PNG.

Support for family planning services forms an important part of the PNG Government's response to its Maternal Health Taskforce report. The report was launched in August 2010 following a Ministerial Taskforce on Maternal Health. It recommended actions to improve maternal health, including increased access to family planning in PNG.

Australia funded a meeting of international and local experts to help PNG develop an emergency action plan based on the report's recommendations. Australia is contributing to the action plan by helping scale up the maternal health workforce. This will complement the work of other partners who are focusing on increasing access to family planning.

In 2011, AusAID is providing targeted support to the PNG National Department of Health (NDOH) to deliver tangible results in reducing maternal deaths and improving maternal health. Australia is funding key priorities of the emergency action plan to address maternal health and will support:
• increased access to family planning;
• the deployment of two experienced obstetricians to Mt Hagen and Madang to assist with service provision and training (A newly trained obstetric and gynaecological specialist has been deployed to Western Highlands. The Australian-provided obstetric and gynaecological specialist will mentor this person and provide regional obstetric and gynaecological services and support to all Highland Provinces);
• the deployment of eight midwifery educators to strengthen the capacity of the midwifery schools to produce competent graduates;
• a comprehensive maternal mortality audit that will provide more accurate measures of maternal mortality and a benchmark to measure and report success in reducing the overall numbers of deaths. Through this we are working with PNG on a framework to monitor and report on how our support will have resulted in a decline in maternal death;
• the procurement and distribution of maternal health emergency equipment to district hospitals and health centres in rural PNG;
• the distribution of drug kits to all health centres and aid posts in all provinces of PNG;
• the training of community health workers;
• investigating the use of outreach patrols in the provinces to increase maternal health service coverage;
• continued funding to upgrade the four existing and one additional midwifery schools to increase the numbers of skilled birth attendants in PNG.

In Bougainville, funding is provided for training of rural health workers to improve antenatal and postnatal checks and manage obstetric emergencies. This has seen a 33 per cent increase in supervised deliveries across Bougainville from 3,175 in 2005 to 4,210 births in 2009. In turn, this has led to an estimated reduction in maternal deaths from 235 per 100,000 in 2005 to 123 per 100,000 in 2009.

Activities along the Kokoda Track include training of health workers, upgrading of health facilities, and provision of essential medical supplies. This has seen a 43 per cent increase in supervised deliveries in the communities of the Kokoda Track region (including villages of Sogeri and Efogi) and a 24 per cent increase from 2007 to 2009 in the number of couples accessing family planning.

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