How PNG's first literary blossoming arrived
Writing in PNG: Kovave & beyond

Death of a teacher

Jerolyn Arimbandai
Jerolyn Arimbandai

| My Land, My Country | Edited

JOSEPHSTAAL - Jerolyn Arimbandai was the only female teacher at the newly-established Catholic high school at Josephstaal in the Madang Province.

She was married to Steven Arimbandai, a Josephstaal man and also a teacher at the school. They had one child and were expecting their second.

Jerolyn was attending the local antenatal clinic, where the health workers were expecting a normal, problem-free delivery.

On 27 June, she decided to move to town in preparation for the birth, a decision made necessary because the Josephstaal Health Centre had run out of basic medical supplies four months before.

Eight months pregnant, Jerolyn had to walk the 25 kilometres to Guam, leaving Josephstaal at 7 am and reaching Guam at 6:30 pm to catch a vehicle bound for Bogia.

The vehicle, overloaded with passengers and cocoa bags, departed at 9 pm and arrived at the Bogia District Health Centre at 4 am, Jerolyn already experiencing the onset of labour pain.

The delivery occurred but Jerolyn suffered a post-partum hemorrhage and was referred to Modilon General Hospital in Madang in the hope she would get there in time to be treated by doctors.

She died at the Modilon hospital gate.

Jerolyn’s decision to seek medical assistance elsewhere was due to the poor government health services available at Josephstaal.

The people there struggle to bring in goods. The only available government services are health and education. All the others are gone.

There are very few government officers serving Josephstaal and most professionals don’t want to go there because it is isolated and difficult for their families.

There is a permanent shortage of staff and equipment. To get goods and services to Josephstaal is expensive.

The old road from Madang to Sogeram is covered with tall grass and shrubs. Sogeram Bridge was washed away by floods in 2019 and has not been reconstructed.

The road is yet to be connected between Josephstaal and Guam. There is talk of constructing it, but the social media updates on its progress are all lies. There has been no progress.

There is a Middle Ramu MP representing this area and the death of Jerolyn Arimbandai poses the question of which road he is funding each year while the Josephstaal road continues to deteriorate.

Jerolyn Arimbandai’s death should signal to the provincial government that the distribution of funds is inadequate

The people of Josephstaal have much hope. But that’s all they have.


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Lindsay F Bond

As a neighbouring "resource rich country", Australia has some way to go to meet needs that emerge even where a provision is implemented, yet evinces dissatisfaction and just likely, shortcomings that can be better addressed.

A few years ago at Tufi in Oro, I saw the health centre had a notice on the entrance door indicating that matters of pregnancy and birth could be attended to daily but in a time slot/duration restricted to four hours.

Stephen Charteris

Yes, this hit me hard too. Firstly sadness, then anger. Death in childbirth through lack of timely referral or resources, so horribly common in rural settings and often goes unreported. As Arthur says, how can this happen in such a resource rich country?

I believe we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves some pertinent questions? In a cobbled together confederacy of 850 nations we birthed, how far does social capital and a real sense of the common good actually extend? Beyond my "kau kau" garden perhaps, maybe to the boundary with the next “hausman”. If this observation is correct, how does any family hold public servants or its government to account for these outcomes. Blame "puri puri".

Have our multiple capacity building interventions taken these subtleties into consideration? Have we done anything in the past forty plus years that built upon a structure that has been self-sufficient for fifty plus millennia? Or have we made assumptions that weren’t correct leading up to 1975 and aren’t correct now. Are our well-intentioned efforts part of the problem?

Martyn Namorong’s prescient article of 09 July, “Bougainville highlights need for a new PNG” poses lots of questions and touches on some underlying factors.

Martyn observes that,
• “the Melanesian world has for millennia been a multi-polar world,”
• “people should always be the centre of power….,”
• “with no strong political centre or hegemony,”
• “people…have become bystanders in their own land,”
• “we should be exploring models…that may be more relevant to PNG.”

In my view Martyn is absolutely right and his sage observations lie at the core of why poor Jerolyn Arimbandai and so many others have suffered and died in the way they did and if nothing fundamentally changes, will continue to die.

Accountability! What accountability? For all our “rose tinted” efforts the system is NOT accountable, and I suggest it never will be. Real accountability only applies to my extended family or maybe as far as some members in my clan. “Sori tru” but the well-intentioned views of outsiders are out of touch with the real PNG. And, if that is true do Martyn’s observations not point towards a potential way forward?

Make the people who were always at the centre of power the doers again in their own land. Through their “mausman” and “mausmeri” bring every community into partnership with the government system. The furthest tentacles of the health system should not stop with aid posts (who are they accountable to?) but extend right into every community in the land.

And where, is the money for that? Time to face facts and a new vision. One that fits with the accepted view of accountability. Dear communities, the government, for whatever reason, will never be in a position to meet your needs. Accept it. (This is defintely not news to them).

For the first-time communities will drive the outcomes relevant to them, not the other way around. Held to account by their own people and no longer the bystanders in their own land.

Oh yes, how? Not easy but it helps that this involves people who have been supremely self-sufficient for an awful long time. It involves providing them with some tools and assistance to value add the undoubted natural resources around them to generate the capital needed to exchange for regular outreach services.

It involves close collaboration with them by agricultural, fishing, off grid power, banks and innovative thinkers so they can incorporate the extra inputs required into their daily, weekly, monthly routines and in return add home based and regular antenatal, immunisation and general outreach services into community life.

Has this been demonstrated? Yes, in its component parts and always with dependency upon external funding. Never in its entirety as a whole of community-government socio-economic partnership to deliver sustainable and accountable services.

In memory of the oh so many Jerolyn’s the time has come to change that.

Arthur Williams

Me too, Robert! I had tears for yet another unnecessary death and tears of anger for all the MPs, Ministers and Prime Ministers who allowed and allow these sorts of deaths to happen.

This in one of the resource richest island nations in th world with only an 8 million population.

Wasn't the huge logging over many years supposed to make improvements in the lives of the area?

Surely a big mine would have helped provide good standard basic services. Oh I forgot, there is one.
Cut it, dig it, flog it, bye bye.

Yet the current batch in Waigani want to spend millions on memorials for dead leaders.

Explain that to Jerolyn's family.

Robert Wilson

This story makes me cry. I remember working as a Didiman in the Ramu, the Madang provincial Wildlife Officer and eventually living in Bogia and co-owner of Bogia Hotel (now defunct) 1972 to 1986.

I recall the many patrols through the Usino/Bundi/Aiome regions where the local aid post in the main villagers were well stocked and villagers well served by the local dokta boi.

The PNG government should and must for ever be held to account for the shame and disregard they have for their people in the regions.

This tragic story is but one of many hundreds or perhaps thousands! Shame on you politicians!

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