How to build a rural aid post in 24 hours

How to build a rural aid post in 24 hours

The mountain village community of Megau came together to build a life-saving medical aid post in just 24 hours. Everything down to the last nail was flown in by MAF

Megau was almost completely isolated until an airstrip was built there just five years ago. Previously, sick and injured people had to traverse rough jungle terrain using a flimsy rope bridge across the dangerous Yuat River to reach another remote airstrip in the mountains of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Now, thanks to the Enga Baptist Health Services (a ministry of the Baptist Union of PNG), the people of Megau have great health facilities in the heart of their community.

Healthcare in the jungle

The new building was instigated by Medical Superintendent Dr David Mills. Besides the hands-on work of treating patients and performing operations at Kompiam Rural Hospital, he is dedicated to supporting communities in setting up their own aid posts.

Rural aid posts comprise more than 70% of all medical facilities in PNG and are the key to improving the health of isolated villagers – especially mothers and children. Megau had a community health worker but no clinic, until generous donors provided the necessary building materials.

A race against the clock

‘We had until 30 April to complete the health post, but we were stretched to capacity,’ Dr Mills shares. It didn’t look like the project would happen! ‘Then,’ he continues, ‘on 28 April, MAF was able to help us with 2 charters – 24 hours apart! We had to be in and out in a day!’

With no time to lose, a Twin Otter aircraft captained by Michael Duncalfe left Mount Hagen. Already on board were five 1,000-litre water tanks to store fresh rainwater collected from the clinic’s metal roof.

One stop in Kompiam to pick up further building supplies, and Dr Mills – and the first load of aluminium struts, roofing iron and metal poles – were on the ground in Megau.

Dr Mills continues,

‘We then had the task of explaining to the villagers that we needed to design the layout, dig the postholes, find timber from the bush, carry it to the site, erect the structure, put on the roof and gutters, join the tanks and install a solar vaccine fridge – all before 12pm the next day!’

Many hands and hard work

As teams gathered timber from the forests, other villagers twisted tie wire ready for bracing and levelling the area where the water tanks would be.

‘We had no ladders, so these were made from bush timbers, too,’ says Dr Mills. It was incredible to see these guys from Megau climb vertical posts with no aids except their strong feet.

‘Not many guys knew much about using hammers or saws and none had previously seen a cordless drill. They thought the sound it made was hilarious and kept imitating it, which was pretty funny – for a while anyway.’

By dusk, the basic structure was up and the first roofing sheets were fixed in place as darkness fell.

‘Early next morning, we were installing the solar vaccination fridge as the roof took shape above our heads. Finally, the gutters went up – plumbed to the tanks so we could start catching water.’

The Lord’s timing

Clouds rolled overhead as the MAF Twin Otter touched down for the final time, and take-off for home later that day looked unlikely.

‘Perhaps this was the Lord giving us another 45 minutes to finish the work,’ Dr Mills reflects. ‘In the end, two very helpful pilots worked with us on the finishing touches.

‘We boarded the plane for home – tired, sweaty and pretty dirty – having started Megau’s new aid post with its first water supply and a new vaccine fridge. All in all, a good day’s work!

‘Many thanks to MAF once again. Without your help, this sort of project wouldn’t be possible.’

 

Story by Mandy Glass

Photos by Michael Duncalfe and Mathias Glass