Ensuring health messaging reaches beyond urban areas to rural and remote PNG is crucial to an inclusive COVID-19 response, as Emma Minimbi knows well.
The Australia Awards alumna is going above and beyond her legal aid work in Jiwaka province to make sure rural communities are well informed about COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination.
“The first thing I did when I returned to my village in Jiwaka province was tell community people at the local market that I had just received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Emma explains.
“I further told them that it’s free and I feel no different than I did before getting vaccinated.”
Having completed a Master’s in law at The University of Melbourne, Emma says she is more aware than ever of the need to share experiences across PNG in the shared fight against COVID-19.
“Papua New Guineans who are educated and know the importance of being vaccinated should lead by example and educate their rural communities,” she says.
“If we want to encourage mass vaccinations, we need to take the first step in getting vaccinated ourselves.”
Emma has also distributed face masks to villagers in Jiwaka and is actively encouraging good hand hygiene.
“I’ve also advised people with flu like symptoms to isolate themselves in their homes and refrain from coming into contact with other people until the symptoms subside,” she says.
Emma acknowledges there is some way to go as the vaccination rollout continues but says the early results of her advocacy are encouraging.
“Ten people in my community have decided to go get vaccinated so I will be taking them to Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority’s office in Mt Hagen to get vaccinated,” she says.
“I’m excited that rural people are now responding to the global pandemic that COVID is and making the conscious decision to get vaccinated.”