Papua New Guinea managed to avoid the worst of the global pandemic in 2020. Now, the country is enduring a severe COVID-19 outbreak that is threatening to overwhelm the health system.
Stigma and misinformation hamper efforts to fight off the coronavirus. Médecins Sans Frontières is providing psychological support to COVID-19 patients in PNG as the country continues to struggle with the outbreak.
No vaccines, no tools
Papua New Guinea has seen COVID-19 cases skyrocket since the beginning of the year. Authorities have enforced measures to flatten the curve before it worsens, but it is proving difficult given the already fragile health system.
Medical experts have sounded off on the overwhelming stress this spike in cases is causing health facilities in the region. Over-worked medical staff, many testing positive and having to quarantine, and a lack of medical supplies have all but crippled public hospitals and clinics around the country.
With many health care staff in the country currently in quarantine after testing positive, another key issue of the pandemic comes to light: vaccine inequality.
“The situation in Papua New Guinea is an example of the global inequity of access to vaccines and other medical tools," says MSF medical manager Farah Hossain. "When cases numbers began to soar, health workers here remained unvaccinated, while other countries are hoarding more vaccines than they need."
Since October 2020, MSF has assisted with one lab technician and cartridges to analyse samples of PCR tests for COVID-19 infections, however the spike in cases demanded extra manpower and medical supplies.
When cases numbers began to soar, health workers here remained unvaccinated, while other countries are hoarding more vaccines than they need.