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New Paper sheds light on resilience in PNG

Published: 01.12.2021
Drew Keys IAPB Western Pacific Regional Manager
IAPB
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The importance of national coordination has never been more obviously important than during the Covid pandemic. A newly published paper, authored by Dr Jambi Garap, charts the development of the National Prevention of Blindness Committee (PBL) in PNG – a story of resilience if ever there was one.

When Dr Jambi set off for London in February 2020 as a guest of the Fred Hollows Foundation, nobody could have predicted the two years that were going to follow. Eye health in Papua New Guinea | International Health | Oxford Academic (oup.com) was born out of that visit and Dr Jambi’s presentation to a packed ballroom at Australia House, where she outlined the challenges faced by our sector in PNG.

Of course, the Covid pandemic has added to PNG’s challenges. Border closures, a challenging Delta outbreak and extreme vaccine hesitancy have placed additional strain on the country’s embattled health system. Recent reports predict that only a third of Papua New Guineans will be vaccinated by 2026 – and this is not for lack of vaccines. Yet, of all the countries of the Pacific Island’s sub-region, it’s in PNG that the show has most assuredly gone on.

Surgeries have continued, outreaches have been undertaken and significant advocacy and planning activities have been carried out. In a time where everyone can be forgiven for bunkering down to their day job, the eye health sector in PNG has been as active as ever.

To understand this resilience in PNG, look no further than Dr Jambi’s description of the development of the PNG Prevention of Blindness Committee. She writes of the challenges faced by the sector over the past two decades and the struggle to establish a nascent national body. But these challenges have paid off. The Pacific Island sub-region’s first Global Trachoma Mapping Project, the first Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness and a National Resource centre for Eye Health – all achieved within the committee’s first decade.

Where to next for the PNG eye health sector? There are big plans and the PNG PBL is at the forefront.

Image on top: Dr Jambi Garap with PNG Eye Care staff