Text: Saportim Lida. Image: Several Papua New Guinea professionals in various actions.

For over 20 years the National Orthotics and Prosthetics Service (NOPS) of Papua New Guinea has improved the mobility and wellbeing of many clients through the provision of orthotics, prosthetics, wheelchairs, walking aids, and rehabilitation services to people around the country.

With the on-going risk of accident and trauma, and the ever-growing rate of non-communicable disease complications such as stroke and amputation, the demand for these essential services continues to grow. Interplast are committed to supporting NOPS to strengthen their workforce, expand their reach, and secure vital resources as part of the Sapotim Lida Program.

Strengthening a National Health System

The Sapotim Lida Program was designed through collaboration by the Government of Papua New Guinea, the Government of Australia and specialist non-government organisations to support the Papua New Guinea – Australia Transition to Health Program (PATH). PATH aims to strengthen the service delivery of provisional health systems and support the transition to sustainable, local funding sources. It also identifies the need to amplify the voice and agency of women in the provincial health system and communities, as a necessary step towards gender equity in Papua New Guinea health services.

Interplast are proud to support this program and work with NOPS, the Papua New Guinea Department of Health and CARE International PNG to achieve these goals.

A Leader in Her Field

Almah, a woman with a lower limb prosthesis, takes a cast of a young girls residual limb.

Almah taking a cast of client Molly’s residual limb, as part of preparation for her first prosthesis, during an outreach trip to Rabaul in 2021.

Almah Kuambu is the Technical Advisor for NOPS, a qualified Prosthetist Orthotist, and first engaged with NOPS as a client when she was a young girl. She has since become a passionate advocate for women and girls with disability, and a globally recognised leader in assistive product provision. Almah has led a number of development activities with Motivation Australia, and spends many days in remote areas of Papua New Guinea, delivering outreach services with her team.

Outreach trips are an invaluable way to ensure people living in hard-to-reach villages can receive allied health services. They are also an opportunity for Almah and her team to meet with other stakeholders and healthcare staff, to investigate how these services may be provided out of local hospitals.

It’s a huge task.

Setting out for West Sepik

Almah recently travelled to the West Sepik Province, almost 1000km away from the centre of NOPS operations in Port Moresby. The first outreach trip under the Sapotim Lida Program was unfortunately hounded by bad weather, but Almah and her team preserved.

West Sepik has a population of almost 250,000, but only two physiotherapists to serve the entire province. To access prosthetic and orthotic services outside of NOPS visits, people, often those living with reduced mobility, must bear the cost and burden of travelling to other provinces.

Supporting NOPS to establish a temporary facility is the next step for Interplast in this program.

Local support for NOPS services

Three women sit on a bench, smiling at the camera. One woman is older and has a lower limb prosthesis.

Left to right: Almah Kuambu, client Anna and local Physiotherapist Florence Yani during Anna’s consultation.

While visiting West Sepik, Almah, Physiotherapist Florence and GEDSI Officer Francis, met with two clients, both women with lower limb amputations, who shared their challenges accessing NOPS services. Without additional support, they had to maintain and repair their own prosthetic limbs. Despite their resourcefulness, they spoke of a need for accessible public transport and support for people living with disability to earn an income.

The idea of having a NOPS service nearby gave them hope for an easier, more comfortable life.
Almah was also able to meet with acting CEO of Vanimo General Hospital, Dr Trevor Kelebi. She was able to provide more information about the Sapotim Lida Program, the challenges that women, girls and people with disabilities face in accessing services, and the story of setting up a successful NOPS service out of Wewak back in 2021.

Next steps

Interplast will be supporting the Sapotim Lida Program into 2024. We will be working closely with NOPS, Almah and all stakeholders to provide opportunities for women to develop their leadership potential at all levels, and for them and their families to access quality, resourced allied health services.