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Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea

by Indigenous Health Solutions, Inc.
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
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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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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Children inhaling smoke from an open fire
Children inhaling smoke from an open fire

The Suowi Ankave are people of the forest; they use bark to make the cloth they use as blankets at night and covering in the day, they hunt game under the canopy, they place newborn babies in their first bedding, huge, verdant tropical leaves. Their culture and livelihood is linked to the forest in so many ways, it is imperative for their cultural and even physical survival that the forest is preserved.

Firewood is something harvested from the forest for daily use in open fires for cooking and to keep mosquitoes at bay. There is a dual trap with the open fire practice, however. Not only do daily fires require a significant amount of wood, but the smoke emitted from them cause serious health problems, in particular for women and children, who spend the most time around them.

Rocket stoves that use very little fuel and emit very low emissions are slowly gaining popularity in Suowi Valley. While the longer term protection of the trees remains somewhat abstract, the decrease in daily wood preparation, decrease in cooking time, and decrease in respiratory illness has been encouraging.

Through participatory rural appraisal approach, in this remote community, accessible by three days walk or by small fixed wing aircraft, we have built a health center with solar lighting and water and a staff house. Now, there is a nurse stationed there full time as well; a key recommendation of the community. Joel, the nurse, works closely with the village birth attendants IHS trained, and regularly carries out health promotion activities, including discussing the dangers of exposure to smoke from open fires. The last quarter has been especially demanding in this regard, as the teachers that had been delivering a conservation conscious elementary school curriculum have left Suowi Valley.

Another round of clean cookstoves, solar backpacks for the village birth attendants, and outreach from health workers, biologists, and others is planned for April. During this time the Suowi Ankave will come together to reassess their priorities and goals, and inform further IHS engagement.

If you would like to learn more about this unique and rare culture, we are happy to announce that the definitive work about the Suowi Ankave, Drumming to Forget, a large-scale hardcover book with full color photos and text in both English and French, is available on our website in the Gifts section. The initiative we announced towards the end of 2018, to offer wild bush grown Arabica coffee for Papua New Guinea, has begun. Coffee can be found next to Drumming to Forget.

We continue to be humbled and feel grateful for your continued faith in the work, which you express through your generous material support.

Sleeping with a smoky fire indoors
Sleeping with a smoky fire indoors
View of Ikundi with Health Center and forest
View of Ikundi with Health Center and forest
Inspecting new low fuel, low emission cookstoves
Inspecting new low fuel, low emission cookstoves

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Observing the low fuel, low emission cookstove
Observing the low fuel, low emission cookstove

The novel technologies brought to the Suowi Ankave people through your generous support are being accepted and appreciated.  Notably, the clean cookstoves, high quality, wrought iron based rocket stoves are being used regularly despite initial concerns they may be rejected. 

The Suowi Ankave live 3 days walking distance from any road, and as such utilize very few modern implements in their daily lives. There was a risk that while the concept of the clean cookstoves was welcomed, once they were physically present they might be rejected. We are happy to report that has not been the case. 

The forest upon which the Suowi Ankave depend remains hearty and healthy, the main threat the Suowi Ankave has perceived thus far related to forest degradation is a decline in game for hunting. Loss of trees, forest canopy is not something they bring up in their top concerns. Given that, the people are expressing appreciation for the very low fuel requirements of the clean cookstoves, which means far fewer trees harvested for fires. 

Moving forward, health impacts of reduced exposure to smoke will be monitored. At baseline, respiratory illness has been a major cause of death and morbidity for all ages of people in Suowi Valley. Eliminating a significant protion of smoke exposure may help. 

We would like ot take this opportunity to thank all of our generous supporters--your dedication to protecting the forest and its indigenous people in Papua New Guinea inspires all of us. We look forward to pressing on in this complex integrated conservation and development work.

An exciting new initiaitve will be started soon, where select goods can be purchased in support of Indigenous Health Solutions; we will begin selling a rare coffee table book full of breathtaking photos and cultural inforation about the Suowi Ankave, as well as wild grown organic Arabica coffe from the hinterlands of PNG, purchased directly from village family growers at Fair Trade prices, roasted in small batches, to be delivered throughout the US. All profits will go directly to support Indigenous Health Solutions programmatic work in Suowi Valley. 

Community members maintain the airstrip vital link
Community members maintain the airstrip vital link
Dixon making improvement to clinic
Dixon making improvement to clinic
A Suowi Ankave child inspects the new tech in town
A Suowi Ankave child inspects the new tech in town

The Indigenous Health Solutions forest-preserving, clean-cooking, health-sparing cook stoves project launched in April 2018 with great success! The initial batch of rocket stoves were brought into Ikundi, Suowi Valley, and distributed evenly among the clans. Though quite different from the traditional log fires used to cook food and provide heat in this extremely remote forest hamlet accessible only by trek or air, the rocket stoves were met with curiosity and interest. The ease of use and efficiency of the stoves proved popular features; one needs only small pieces of combustible fuel, and the heat of the stive cooks food rapidly and warms the area as well. An initial concern that the stoves may be rejected because log fires produce smoke that repels malaria-carrying mosquitos was put to rest by the mosquito nets and teaching provided along with the stoves. 

The clean cook stoves project allowed us to reconnect with the community, hear about current priorities, challenges and successes, conduct a new census, and also check in on existing projects in conservation, health, infrastructure, education, and midwifery. We were thrilled to observe the indigenous knowledge transfer about living in harmony with and seeking medicinal succor from the forest being supported by the success of the tiny bush-material school there. The health clinic and staff house erected a few years back remain in excellent condition, and a resident health worker made his probationary rotation in April, notably saving a 3 year old girl from paralysis.

However, there is still no running water in the clinic, the school, or in the bush-material birthing house constructed by the IHS-trained village midwives. Without electricity, use of the few solar lights currently available is stretched. We need your help to address these and other trials; and to maintain the community engagement and ownership of this work, which forges a path to sustainability. Please visit our website www.indigenoushealthsolutions.org to be included on our mailing list, and get more information about progress and upcoming initiatives. Please also consider another donation to this project; it would be enormously helpful to keep the momentum generated by this initial resounding success going. We are grateful for your part in introducing clean cook stoves in this very remote forest community; signing up for monthly recurrent donations is a fantastic way to support this work as well.

Until the next update from the lungs of the Earth, the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea, we wish you all the best.

First public demonstration of clean rocket stove
First public demonstration of clean rocket stove
Taking a new census of the Suowi Ankave
Taking a new census of the Suowi Ankave

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Organization Information

Indigenous Health Solutions, Inc.

Location: Santa Fe, NM - USA
Website:
Twitter: @indigenous_HS
Project Leader:
Sarthak Das
Santa Fe, NM United States

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