Port Moresby (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has urged communities in PNG affected by tribal conflict to respect and protect health services at all times.
ICRC Communication and Cooperation Delegate Dan Waites made the call in a speech to residents of Kalolo in Southern Highlands Province, a village which on Friday celebrated the official opening of a new health centre supported by the Geneva-based humanitarian organisation.
"Our most vital message here today is the same one that our organisation repeats across the world: protect and cherish your health centre, even – or especially – in times of conflict," said Mr Waites.
Yakisu Community Sub-Health Centre, construction on which began in 2015, serves a catchment area including Kalolo and several surrounding villages in the Suku Valley, some of which have been involved in tribal fights in recent years.
The name of the new facility, "Yakisu", is a composite referring to the communities of the Yakira River and Suku Valley region.
In 2011, a health post in the nearby village of Batri 1 was burned down during a tribal fight between the Kanarepa and Perepe clans, leaving the residents of the Suku Valley far from the nearest clinic.
"The fact that this facility can open here to serve not only the people of this village, but those of all the surrounding communities, is something each one of you can be proud of," said Mr Waites.
Before the opening of the clinic, residents often had to walk as far as 20 kilometres to reach a functioning health facility, sometimes even longer when maternity care was required.
The new centre provides vaccinations, child health support, maternity care, family and sexual violence support and emergency care of life-threatening injuries, among other services.
It was designed by the ICRC, with technical documents supplied by Partner Housing Australia. Construction was carried out by local NGO Vision for Homes and paid for by the ICRC.
Veronique Pinto, the ICRC's Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator for Water & Habitation, thanked the community for their work on the project.
"Having seen the centre with my own eyes, I'd like to congratulate you on a job well done, and to express my wish that this facility becomes what it is intended to be: a vital part of your community, one that helps to keep all of you healthy and strong," she said.
The celebrations, which included a traditional sing-sing, were attended by a variety of local dignitaries including Acting CEO of Southern Highlands Provincial Health Authority, Dr Joseph Birisi.
For further information, please contact:
Dan Waites, ICRC Port Moresby, tel. +675 708 80 624
Quinton Alomp, ICRC Port Moresby, tel. +675 321 0721