Efforts by mothers and women on Lihir Island in Namatanai District, New Ireland Province, to improve the health and livelihood of their people have gained the recognition and support of the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) and World Bank.

World Bank, through MRA, yesterday (Wednesday, October 1, 2014) handed over K40,000 to the Pitztorme Women's Association to assist women in Lihir with their sanitation project.

The project would involve the construction of VIP pit toilets in selected villages and locations around the island for use by people in the communities. A project operation agreement was also signed yesterday, paving the way for the Anitua Group of Companies to build the toilet facilities.

Handing over the K40,000 cheque yesterday, MRA senior representative Stella Brere said while the funding may be small, this is a project that came from your heart and we are all looking forward to a good outcome in the next 18 months. We want to see a greater impact on those most affected in our communities, our women and children,she said.

Ms Brere also encouraged the women and all stakeholders including the women's association, rural local level government, Lihir gold mine developer Newcrest Mining Ltd, Lihir Mining Area Landowners Association and its health programme LICHP, state agencies on the island and the business community to work in partnership to ensure the success of such projects that would meaningfully benefit women and children in communities. She said the assistance by MRA was in line with the National Government plans and strategies to develop women’s projects throughout Papua New Guinea.

What MRA is doing is only complementing the arrangement that we have with the World Bank in managing their funds and ensuring they are used for the purposes intended for, Ms Brere said. Petztorme Women's Association representative Mrs Anna Hobo said the healthy village concept would cover eight council wards within the Nimamar Rural Local Level Government. The concept was introduced by the Lihir Islands Community Health Programme in  2010 and since then, it has taken us five years to witness todays funding arrangement with the help of MRA and the World Bank.

The healthy island concept is a holistic developmental approach aimed at building healthier communities and people through community action, managing environments and policy and infrastructure,” Mrs Hobo said. NRLLG ward 10 member Ben Amolam said his Lienbel people had grasped this community initiative through the technical support and advice of the women’s association and LMALA through LICHP.

The healthy village concept is aimed at training local mothers on basic hygiene, sanitation and nutrition encompassing the objectives of food security, encouraging village peace and order and promoting economic activities through the sourcing of markets for small village producers. LICHP manager Katu Yapi explained that under the programme, it was envisaged that all households in Lienbel village would have access to proper sanitation, through the building of VIP toilets, in the next 18 months or so.

In June 2010, two Lihirian villages, Sianos and Samo, won a grant from the World Health Organisation as part of the WHO Healthy Islands Recognition awards. Both received US$20,000 in-kind support from the WHO to continue to strengthen their Healthy Village activities. Such an achievement only goes to show and demonstrate what can be achieved when communities take responsibility for the health of their people and their environment,” LMALA acting General Manager Mr Dennis Zeriga-Gati said yesterday in appreciation of the funding support provided to the women’s association and the Lienbel community by the World Bank and MRA.

Mr Zeriga-Gati said the Healthy Village concept can be traced back to 2004 when it was initially introduced during outreach activities conducted by the mine developer and its stakeholders. It was an approach instigated to prevent and curb the spread of diseases. The communities had since taken charge of the concept and have been driving it with the help of our programmes including LICHP. He said this had seen a significant drop in the number of cases of filariasis and malaria in villages.

Villagers are now beginning to see the connection between the Healthy Village concept and the improved health of their communities. Communities need to work together and take responsibility for their own health.,” Mr Zeriga-Gati said.

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