May 05, 2020

The Face Masks for Papua New Guinea (PNG) Project

It was announced on April 16th, that five cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in PNG . Three related to border crossing refugees into Western province across the land border with Indonesia, a nation struggling with its Covid-19 caseload.

The PNG government declared a state of emergency to June 2nd in which international entry is banned and major highways and domestic airlines are closed to all but essential cargo and provincial borders are closed. Schools and colleges will resume at the beginning of May with close monitoring.

The disruption Many citizens now have no means of support other than the subsistence/ informal economy, remittances and extended family/ communal/ social networks as the formal economy and paid work/ trading is severely curtailed. Those in the settlement slums will be allowed to repatriate to their wantok communities when the state of emergency ends in June.

Young Mercy Links South Australia members had a working bee and made 30 masks last Sunday
L-r: Ada Snell, Violet Croall, Harper Robb, Isabel Salter, Bridie Squire, Georgina Toome, Clare Peterson

Under the leadership of PNG’s Joint Agency Task Force, the UNICEF and AUSAID are teaming up to help PNG.

The UN estimates the current population of PNG at 8.95 million. The last advice is that 500 sets of PPE have been handed over to 22 provinces to share, and across the nation, 30 tents for screening patients who present with COVID-19 symptoms will be used to conduct pretriage screening procedures.

There is a media public awareness raising campaign to urge citizens to maintain social distancing and pay more attention to washing hands with soap and water. The potential for tragic consequences lies heavy here.

What is striking about that information is the distance between ideal and practical reality. For villagers who do not have taps and can’t afford soap, the advice to wash hands and use soap or hand sanitizer takes an effort, needing external assistance.

We hope to help in two ways
(a) volunteer sewing of face masks for distribution to ordinary citizens where an outbreak may occur and
(b) donations for sewing materials, postage, soap.

There are Sisters, relatives and friends of Sisters around the Institute who are assisting at their sewing machines and sewing up masks at a rapid rate.

If you would like to assist, you can find a demonstration and face-mask pattern (video below) at the following link:

Messages to: Margaret Ryan rsm

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