Catholics step up to help PNG overcome health crisis

Diocese of Lae in Papua New Guinea receives personal protective equipment organised by Catholic Health Australia and Caritas Australia (Caritas Australia/PNG)

The stark differences between Australia and Papua New Guinea during the pandemic are a reminder of how far we still have to go to ensure all people have access to decent health care, writes John Watkins. Source: Eureka Street.

Here in Australia, we’re lucky to be in the midst of a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout, we’re better at controlling new outbreaks and our lockdowns are getting faster.

But for people living in PNG, one of our closest neighbours, the situation is very different. Since late February, case numbers have been increasing rapidly.

This crisis is also a reminder of how big the gap is between us and our closest neighbour. Despite its proximity, the average citizen in Papua New Guinea lives a radically different life to those of us here in Australia. Only 15 per cent of people have regular access to electricity and 46 per cent of the population has access to clean drinking water.

Frequent natural disasters, poor transportation and limitations in healthcare and education further compound the existing inequalities. Worryingly, one-third of the population lives in households without a place to wash hands that has both soap and water.

It’s easy to see why providing a timely and effective response to COVID-19 might be difficult, but the challenges in the healthcare system in particular make responding effectively even harder.

At this time of great need, Catholic Health Australia and its many members have stepped up to support one of Caritas Australia’s long-time partners, Catholic Church Health Services in Papua New Guinea, with a pledge of more than $250,000 to help tackle COVID-19.

This is surely the result of the Good Samaritan values in action — practical, effective and compassionate.

The Honourable John Watkins AM is chair of Catholic Health Australia and is a director of Caritas Australia.


Working together to achieve healthcare equity for all (Eureka Street

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