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Jan 14, 2020

Year of inclusive development for forest families

prosperity and health for the next generation!
prosperity and health for the next generation!

We are looking forward to 2020 In Suowi Valley, and would like to share some of our aspirations with you. Despite ongoing grave challenges presented by the extreme rugged and remote location where the Ankave live, with your help, Indigenous Health Solutions has found footing to make small yet important steps towards inclusive development that respects the Earth. 

We need to acquire myriad equipment this year to maintain progress in our integrated development effort, and we are committed to making as much of that equipment solar or otherwise environmentally low impact. Our chief partner in health, the Eastern Highlands Provincial Health Authority, has generously included a solar vaccines refrigerator and ongoing key support, such as essential medicinces, for the Ikundi Health Center in their provincial primary health plan. While facing stark curative, primary and preventative health needs of a mountainous province with a dense population of over one half million people, their commitment to assuring that the extremely remote of PNG are not neglected continues to inspire and humble the rest of us at Indigenous Health Solutions. 

While the health indicators for the Ankave have improved significantly since the beginning of our work in 2011, repiratory illness is still a leading cause of death and serious illness in Suowi Valley. The presence of our functional health clinic is critical, but having supplemental oxygen, particularly for babies and small children suffering from pneumonia, is essential to increased survival and decreased long term injury from respiratory disease. A solar powered oxygen concentrator would primarily benefit seriously ill children, but would also be important for older aldults in Suowi with chronic or acute respiratory illness, a common later life ilness there. A solar powered oxygen concentrator is not inexpensive, but because of its potential impact, we will seek to procure and deploy it to the Ikundi health center. 

While our health workers and other volunteers generally trek to Suowi Valley for three days, carrying heavy loads of provisions across mountain passes, air charters are sometimes necessary. The airstrip, a lifeline to the Suowi Valley, especially in emergency situations, was created by hand over many years. It is well-known among pilots of small aircraft in PNG as one of the most harrowing airstrips on which to land. Bravely, these pilots have not once refused to make a trip there despite the hair-raising incline of the airstrip. However, in order to be as safe as possible, they do require that it is well-groomed. Cutting the vegetation by hand with bush knives is a long and exhausting process, and those leading that chore have requested motorized tools to assist. Rather than acquiring petrol-fueled tools, IHS will pilot battery powered tools that can be recharged with solar panels. 

Education continues to be a major challenge in the catchment area, as there is currently no elementary or secondary schools, and children who travel to towns to enroll can have negative experiences. As health has improved, education is rising on the community priority list, and IHS is listening carefully. We have catalogued every primary and secondary student in the hamlet and are seeking solutions of the right fit for the short and long term to improve the level of literacy and education among the youth.  

Finally, the health of the forest as well as the health of the other non-human life within it will continue to be a grounding feature of our work in Suowi Valley. The changing climate patterns are causing concern there; subsistence gardening was much more difficult last year, but did not fail as in prior years with extended drought and unexpected heavy rains. In an effort to measure the health of the forest in Suowi Valley, we intend to commit to an ongoing acoustic ecology assessment. By recording and analyzing the sounds of the forest recorded in the same place, at the same time of year repeatedly into the future, we intend to assess the health of the forest, and identify any subtle detrimental changes before they are irreversible. 

Thank you for your attention to our aspirations for 2020 and the new decade, and as always, for your unflagging support of this ambitious effort. 

If you haven't yet tried the wild grown specialty Arabica coffee from the wilds of PNG that is available in the gifts section of our website, please consider doing so. The coffee is superb and your purchase serves as a donation to the Suowi Valley work.   

An owlet waits with patients outside the clinic
An owlet waits with patients outside the clinic

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Sep 10, 2019

Forest families update

Ikundi mother with a baby cassowary
Ikundi mother with a baby cassowary

Because of the extreme remoteness of the Ankave people –two to three days walk from the nearest town with infrastructure such as electricity or running water, having a Community Health Worker living in Ikundi and hosting rural outreach makes an immense difference. Through your generous support, we have been able to sustain the presence of a health worker, Joel, throughout this year and most of last. 

To support Joel with clinical consultation for more complex cases and to provide higher level of services, we support  outreach visits from our partner Provincial Health Authority of Eastern Hihglands. When the seasoned outreach workers visit, as they did in April this year, people get more care and and Joel gets clinical mentorship to improve his practice and learn new skills. This makes him better prepared to serve and teach the community in Suowi Valley.   

We combine these outreach visits with input from conservation biologists as well as introduction of invited technology such as solar equipment for the village midwives and clinic, satellite communication, as of course, low fuel, low emission cookstoves. 

The preparation for these visits takes months: from gathering resources from our generous supporters to pay for the charter flight, to identifying clinical staff ready to live in the rugged wilderness without electricity or running water for 7-10 days, to gathering as much medicine and supplies as possible that will fit within the Pac750 aircraft. Vaccines pose a special challenge with cold chain requirements. Because as yet we have not afforded a solar vaccine fridge, we can bring in only enough vaccines that can be stored in a cooler and administered within 24 hours; a photo included here illustrates this.    

The clinical calculus is not easy as our teams may find surprises on the ground, especially from families dwelling alone, deep in the forest who have been previously unknown to us, but come forward seeking help when they hear the Pac750 land.  We always have to make due with what we have once we arrive in Ikundi, but with your support, are often able to follow up with necessary supplies and services. One situation we are encountering now is long term rehabilitation possibiliteis for Anya (not her actual name), a five year old girl the size of a typical 18 month old, who has one stray eye, and has lost use of her legs after having suffered untreated meningitis some years back. Anya is undernourished and needs special, sustained attention if she is to walk again. Thanks to your interest, we are able to maintain the tenuous contact with this remote family in order to guide them towards her recovery with specialist physical therapy assistance and continued clinical assessment and support.

The cookstoves delivered so far are serving the early adopters well. Many of the users have dental problems that make eating food that is not cooked thoroughly hard to do; these users in particular appreciate these fast-cooking rocket stoves. Users report gathering far less wodd, and appreciation for cutting fewer trees of the forest. In the photos attached, you can see a young endangered cassowary with an Ankave woman. The way this magnificent wild bird is free yet dwelling in her compound we feel is an excellent visual representation of the relationship the people we serve have with the natural world. Thank you so much for helping us to help them continue nuturing that special realtionship, to the benefit of us all. 

Please note that we continue to offer specialty Arabica coffee wild grown in Papua New Guinea for sale on our website. Your purchase there, as your donations here, on Global Giving, serves as a program donation. As from our inception, all management serve as volunteers, assuring your precious funds go directly to support of this work on the ground.  

Indigenous dog with Ikundi household compound
Indigenous dog with Ikundi household compound
A Community Health Worker with polio vaccines
A Community Health Worker with polio vaccines

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May 6, 2019

Rocket Stoves Taking Off!

Jyen-nii serving up kau kau ready in a jiffy
Jyen-nii serving up kau kau ready in a jiffy

Rocket Stoves Taking Off & Over 1000 Health Patient Visits to the Clinic over 7 Days!

Since our last report in early 2019, Indigenous Health Solutions (IHS) has made excellent progress in integrated development in remote Papua New Guinea.

Lift Off: Growing success in rocket cookstove adoption is changing lives for the better

Because the Suowi Ankave people live in isolation in pristine nature, surrounded by mountains made of stone, household goods that are common throughout the world are rarely found. One of the challenges to the introduction of low fuel, low emission cookstoves has been that only families who own cooking pots can use them to cook their meals. Only families that have had a child atend school in a town, or have had someone go away to work on a sugar or other plantation ususally have a pot. Traditional cooking among the Suowi Ankave requires a large open fire that consumes large quantities of wood and emits thick smoke.  Garden food, and sometimes game, is placed into hollow bamboo and put directly into a large open fire for cooking. Previously such cook fires were found in the center of the living space.  People would cook, eat, and sleep around the fire; the fires were kept burning throughout the night so that the heavy smoke will deter mosquitoes.

As people have learned that such heavy smoke contributes to the frequent and often fatal respiratory illnesses in their children, as well as to chronic lung disease among older adults, many households have moved their cook fires outside and have accepted sleeping under mosquito nets. One of Indigenous Health Solutions' important interventions in 2018 was the introduction of fuel-efficient and low soke emission stoves. When the rocket stoves were first introduced one year ago the reception was tepid.

Things have changed as experience grows. During our latest outreach in April 2019, people were eager for the new shipment of cookstoves and more people wanted a cook stove then there were units available.  The desire for this new technology spans families with young children to older people with bad teeth, who crave softened food. These stoves use small pieces of wood and scrap that are lighter and easier to find then large logs; they are also easier to keep dry, and the heat is high, cooking food very quickly, even at the high altitude of the Suowi Valley.

During the recent outreach, some families expressed that they were unclear about the rocket stoves and their benefits. One our early adopters, Jyen-nii , brought her rocket stove to the green next to the Indigenous Health Solutions Health Center. There she demonstrated how she starts a fire in the rocket stove and and cooks kau kau (sweet potato) on it.  The assembled crowd who had been unclear about the device were astonished that the kau kau was soft and ready to eat in five minutes! Many gathered around happily accepted a piece wrapped in banana leaf from Jyeen-nii.

Indigenous Health Solutions and Eastern Highlands Provincial Health Authority Rural Outreach, long term partners in this work, conducted the April 2019 outreach together at the solar IHS clinic. Over seven days, the team had 3 clinicians seeing an average of 70 patients each per day.  Suowi Valley is not the only hamlet of isolated clans in the area. Within a few days after the start of the outreach groups of people from two and three days walk away began showing up seeking services; they started walking with their sick, their babies and older children when they heard the plane land. Pneumonia remains a top killer of children in Suowi Valley; several severe cases that were nearly fatal were seen during the outreach. Obtaining a solar powered oxygen concentrator and vaccine refridgerator are top objectives for the next year as IHS looks forward to continued steady progress in this work of caring at once for our planet and the people who depend most directly on it for survival. 

Thank you as always, for your generous support. Remember to check out the Ppaua New Guinean wild grown Arabica specialty coffee on offer in the gifts section of our website, link below. 

Lucy examines a baby at the IHS Health Center
Lucy examines a baby at the IHS Health Center
This mother got a contraceptive implant at clinic.
This mother got a contraceptive implant at clinic.

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