Pregnant PNG teacher Jerolyn walks 25km for her unborn baby – but dies tragically

Jerolyn Arimbandai
PNG schoolteacher Jerolyn Arimbandai ... a tragically fatal journey to hospital in Madang from a remote village. Image: My Land My Country

SPECIAL REPORT: By Patrick Angrai

Jerolyn Arimbandai was the only woman teacher of a newly established Catholic-run high school in the Middle Ramu district of Papua New Guinea’s Madang province.

She was married to Steven Arimbandai, a local from Josephstaal,  also a teacher at Josephstaal High School. They had a child and were expecting their second.

On June 27, she decided to move to town in preparation for the birth. Her decision to move to town was due to the fact that the Josephstaal Health Centre had run out of basic medical supplies four months prevously.

At eight months pregnant, she walked a 25km road. I was with the group accompanying her when we left Josephstaal at 7:00 am. We reached Guam at 6:30 pm.

She departed for town at 9:00 pm. I couldn’t get on the vehicle since it was overloaded with passengers and cocoa bags.

At around 4:00am, they reached Bogia when she experienced the onset of labour pain and was brought to Bogia Health Centre.

Her delivery was supervised at Bogia centre and she was diagnosed with post-partum haemorrhage. She was than referred to Madang General Hospital in the hope that they would get there in time for doctors to treat her.

Died at the hospital front gate
She died in front of the Modilon Hospital gate.

Her decision to seek medical assistance elsewhere was due to poor basic government service delivery at Josephstaal.

PNG travel difficulties
Cameraman Vinansius Wavite travelled to Josephstaal with Patrick Angrai in 2020. They documented the difficulties faced by the people. Image: My Land My Country

The people of Josephstaal are still struggling, trying to bring in goods and services. The only government services that are available are health and education. All other services are all closed.

Health and education are the only “flag raisers” of the province and the nation.

Patrick Angrai
Patrick Angrai … “We have staff and equipment problems every year.  There are only a few officers serving Josephstaal LLG.  We have never had full staffing.  Most professionals do not want to go to Josephstaal because it is isolated and difficult  for their families. Image: My Land My Country

The road  is yet to be connected from Guam to Josephstaal. The existing road from the Madang-Sogeram road is now covered with tall grass and shrubs.

To get goods and services to Josephstaal is expensive. The three different payments needed are vehicle hire, boat hire and youth to help.

Sogeram Bridge was washed away by floods in 2019 and is yet to be reconstructed.

There is a mention of road construction from Guam to Josephstaal. The social media updates about the road construction and its progress are all lies.

There has been no progress.

The meaning of the death?
The Middle Ramu member of Parliament, Johnny Alonk, represents the people of Middle Ramu and Josephstaal is one of the four areas in the district.

What does Jerolyn Arimbandai’s death tell us about millions of kina committed to the so-called shopping list request from the K10 million (NZ$4.1 million) District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds?

Middle Ramu does not have other roads connecting to town. The only road is the Josephstaal road.

Which road is the Middle Ramu MP funding every year while the Josephstaal road continues to deteriorate?

My question to the provincial government: Does this female teacher’s death tell you anything about your distribution of funds throughout the entire province?

The people of Josephstaal had so much hope.

Patrick Angrai is a Papua New Guinean health worker. This article was first published on journalist Scott Waide’s blog My Land My Country and it is republished with permission.

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