Perseverance by Flinders University PhD candidate Shila Paia will ensure that essential medical goods saved from Adelaide’s old Royal Adelaide Hospital will finally reach earthquake-ravaged areas of the Papua New Guinea Highlands – despite unexpected dockside holdups, bureaucratic backflips and PNG government demands for customs fees.
A six-metre container filled with a combination of donated medical supplies from the RAH, school supplies and other items, arrived in Lae Port, PNG on 19 October, but was detained on the wharf until the payment of PNG customs fees. Shila, a Flinders University Public Health and International Development Graduate, had presented a case for the humanitarian shipment to be exempt from customs fees, but the PNG government refused to waive the fees – and applied additional detention charges while the container remained impounded on the dock.
Now, Dr Anthony Wal, director of PNG rural health and a great supporter of Shila’s aid project, has confirmed that the PNG government customs fees have been paid in full by the Hela Provincial Health Office. A verbal confirmation has also been received that Esso Highlands PNG will pay the container’s cartage fees from Lae Port to Dauli. This generosity builds on payment for the container’s shipment and freighting logistics through donations from the South Australian Intensive Care Association, The Uniting Church at Broadview and through Shila’s fundraising activities.
Despite having achieved a solution, Shila remains upset that this humanitarian aid effort has been affected by unexpected financial obstacles. “I obtained support and endorsement letters from all of our Australian stakeholders and supporters, but the PNG government would not waive fees on these donated humanitarian goods,” says Shila. “It’s very unfortunate that this happens at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable.”
Shila and her two sons, aged 17 and 19, will travel from Adelaide to PNG in late November, to help transport the container from Lae Port to a distribution centre in Dauli, Hela Province.
These goods and medical supplies will eventually help people affected by the violent earthquake that rocked Papua New Guinea in early March, causing devastating mud slides that trapped many communities in remote mountain areas, including Hela Province. Equipment that Shila obtained from the decommissioned RAH will help to cover critical shortfalls in medical supplies, and provide such valuable apparatus as ultrasounds to theatre and surgical goods, assisting in everything from childbirth to better immunisation and basic primary health care.
“Every piece that has been made available from the old RAH will be useful, including a surgical microscope,” explains Shila.
Beyond organising and overseeing the delivery of these supplies, Shila has also created the SoilChild education project, to break inter-generational poverty in rural Papua New Guinea.
Its first task will be the completion of a library and contemporary classroom with eight rooms for Dauli Demo Primary School, in Hela Province. Shipment of laptops, books, shelves and desks for the new library ready for official opening in early 2019.
Shila intends this to be a pilot project for other SoilChild education projects, but to enable this work to continue, Shila is now seeking funds to fill a second container with library resources and more medical supplies.
SoilChild donations can be made to Fulcrum Aid: https://fulcrumaid.com.au/projects2/three-plus-papua-new-guinea