UNICEF Australia Thanks P&O Pacific Partnership for Support of Program in PNG that has Saved Lives of Hundreds of Mothers and Newborn Babies

Monday, May 10, 2021

Following support from the guest-funded P&O Pacific Partnership and other donors, UNICEF’s ‘Saving Lives, Spreading Smiles’ program in PNG, has saved the lives of hundreds of mothers and newborn babies.

UNICEF Australia has expressed its gratitude for the Partnership’s support of the program in remote areas of the Western Highlands and Milne Bay Provinces with the program credited with saving 315 mothers and 1450 newborns.

PNG has one of the worst maternal and child health indicators in the Pacific region. An estimated 40 per cent of pregnant women experienced pregnancy-related health problems combined with high infant mortality in which 6,000 babies die in their first month of life, mostly from conditions easily prevented with basic medical care.

Illustrating the effectiveness of the UNICEF program in partnership with the PNG National Department of Health, the case fatality rate among newborns with neonatal conditions at one provincial hospital nursery fell from 18 per cent to four per cent in one year.

“The communities we visit in PNG are close to our hearts and we look forward to our ships returning there with the much anticipated restart of cruising,” said Sture Myrmell, President of P&O Cruises Australia.

“Our guests, who appreciate the warm welcome they receive in PNG, will be delighted that the P&O Pacific Partnership that they so generously support made such a positive difference to the wellbeing of mothers and babies.

“Having seen the program in action, it is inspiring to know that the Partnership’s support helped save hundreds of mothers and infants.”

In addition to the Partnership support, the ongoing program is jointly funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other supporters of UNICEF Australia, and is aligned with the PNG Government’s strategic health policies and priorities.

The ‘Saving Lives, Spreading Smiles’ program includes interventions to prevent infant deaths due to a sudden loss of body temperature. These interventions involve:

  • ‘Kangaroo mother care’ where parents are encouraged to use a special newborn skin-to-skin technique where babies are held chest-to-chest to keep them warm.
  • The ‘Bebi Kol Kilok’ alert bracelet for premature and low birth weight babies to detect neonatal hypothermia, facilitating improved thermal care of newborns.

In releasing a report for the year to June 30, 2020, UNICEF Australia thanked the P&O Pacific Partnership “for its crucial support and commitment to ‘Saving Lives, Spreading Smiles’.”

“Its contribution was particularly important and relevant in reaching childbearing women, male family members and their newborns in remote locations in the Western Highlands Province and Milne Bay Province," said Tony Stuart CEO of UNICF Australia.