It’s been five years since we began working in the Oro Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
This July, our volunteer team returned to Popondetta to run vaccination and general health clinics. Read more about it here.
The progress we’ve been able to make in the Oro Province would not have been possible without collaboration with our partners. This includes New Britain Palm Oil Ltd, who provides free health care to over 20,000 local employees and their families in the surrounding communities.
Local health workers attending training presentations run by our medical team
This year we reached a tipping point – where conversations have evolved into a formal commitment to help the many people in the Oro Province who are living with chronic hepatitis B.
HOPE for PNG
Over 250 million people worldwide are infected with chronic hepatitis B. Most of these people live in low and middle income countries in the Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa. Whilst there is limited data available about rates of hepatitis B in PNG, it is likely that it is high (>8%), similar to other Pacific Island nations.
Hepatitis B can be treated with one pill-a-day treatment. Tenofovir and entecavir is recommended by the World Health Organization as first-line treatment. It can safely and effectively suppress the levels of the virus in the blood. It also helps to protect the liver against the deadly complications of untreated hepatitis B: liver cancer and liver failure.
Friday July 28 marked World Hepatitis Day, a day to raise awareness and advocacy for efforts to eliminate hepatitis worldwide. On the evening of this momentous day, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by NBPOL, Popondetta General Hospital, Oro Provincial Health and Hepatitis B Free to create a hepatitis B treatment program. It will be named after the flagship program is the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, where there are now over 700 patients on antiviral therapy – HOPE (Hepatitis B Overview and Program to TrEat).
There couldn’t have been a better day for this demonstration of partnership and commitment, and all parties celebrated the occasion. Finally, the opportunity to make a substantial difference for these people living with hepatitis B is just around the corner.
By Carrie Lee, Youth & Publicity Officer
Photos by Michael Kozok