Covid in Simbu: Things are not OK
After 8 years of terror, Alotau says ‘enough’

The things that matter

Break the silenceBARBARA ANGORO
| Duresi's Odyssey

AUCKLAND - As a Papua New Guinean woman, a pharmacist and a mum, I’m speaking up for the things that matter in my country?

It's been a few days since I read Scott Waide's article, ‘Speak Out! Silence is Killing Our Nation, but I have not stopped thinking about it.

I've got so many concerns and the article made me stop and think long and hard.

As a Papua New Guinean woman I have on many occasions held my tongue in formal and informal settings for fear of not being taken seriously.

Or I felt it wasn't 'my place' to voice my opinions on things that mattered to me. Although I felt I had valid things to contribute, I did not.

I'm not sure if 'culture' had some sort of an influence on this. Looking back, I know those were wasted opportunities - I should have been braver and spoke up.

No more time for that. Things will only change if I try - even if I don't get my point out in the first place, I will have spoken out. Maybe the next time, someone else will sing the same tune and get heard.

As a pharmacist, medicine is an area I am passionate about and advocate for. It is no lie, our country's medical supplies situation was already dire pre-Covid-19. The arrival of the pandemic has just magnified it.

As one of the few hundred of nationally trained pharmacists, I've thought long and hard about the medical supplies issues. It's obviously multi-faceted with many contributing factors.

I have written on some areas we pharmacists have control over, and do our share to improve.

Some days I feel defeated. Why is shortage of medical supplies such a chronic issue? Are we as pharmacists stationed in provinces actively reaching out?

Are we networking with health centres, urban clinics and aid posts to ensure we help health workers order the right medicines in the right quantities and follow up their orders?

Are we as pharmacists in area medical stores proactive in ensuring medical supplies are procured in the right quantities and those supplies meant for provinces transported in a timely manner?

Or is it a procurement issue? Are medical supplies procured from supplies actually being delivered by supplier and on time as contracted?

If not, what is the agreement for failure to deliver? Who ensures that if medical supplies are not delivered as contracted the supplier is held accountable?

I truly hope fellow pharmacists and others along the supply chain of medical supplies each plays our role to ensure the terrible status quo is changed.

It's 2021 now - things need to change. I'm only one person but I hope, by me speaking about it, more like-minded people will push for and bring about change.

As a mum, I worry a lot about my child (which parent doesn't).  However, my biggest fear lies in providing security for my child once we return home to PNG.

I have no doubt I will need to pay for transport for her movement to and from school, and both our lives will be restricted if we live in any of the big cities.

We will not enjoy the freedom of evening walks around the block, or walking out freely without the added alertness of watching who is approaching us or walking behind us.

Growing up as a child, my siblings and I literally walked ourselves to school and back without needing any older relative to accompany us. What has gone so wrong that PNG has gone worse in the recent years?

Regardless of what people might say, Port Moresby and most towns and urban areas are not safe. We Papua New Guineans in villages live carefree lives and are friendly and respectful towards each other and visitors. Why isn't this emulated in the cities and towns?

Then there's the accessibility and quality of basic services provided in PNG. To access things like secondary education and health services run by the government is problematic.

I have no doubt highly qualified people are attached to these services but most of them can only do so much with resources. It's a vicious cycle.

I don't have all the answers but I can talk about it. We can talk about and look for solutions together. Our children have the right to live a truly free PNG with access to affordable services that enable them to be educated, healthy and mentally fit to take our country into the future.

So I ask myself again - am I speaking up enough? Definitely more now than I used to before, but perhaps not enough in certain spaces where I can be heard.

To those Papua New Guineans reading this, I hope you read Scott's article linked to above and start thinking about how we can start talking (and acting) to collectively change PNG.

It takes many pieces of wood to have a fire burning brightly.


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