Marie Stopes International Australia

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Flying doctors

A male nurse in a team that has just completed 57 IUD insertions, Joe Mondo is sitting down to a well-deserved cup of tea. The sun is setting over the remote mountain village in Papua New Guinea where he’s been posted for three days. These kinds of remote, hard-to-reach places are home to 87 per cent of the PNG population.

When Joe arrived this morning, there were over 100 patients waiting for his mobile family planning clinic – a tent with a fold-out operating bed. While the accommodation wasn’t five-star, the organisation of his sterile instruments was. Joe can perform safe, clean medical procedures in all sorts of settings, from a government health clinic to a community hall.

Locals queued for hours to consult Joe and his team about different contraceptive options. Most couples in this impoverished area have five children, some as many as 12, and access to birth control is a new opportunity for most. Only one in five couples use modern contraception in PNG.

“To reduce the chance of falling pregnant again, many husbands and wives don’t sleep in the same bed,” says Joe. “Everyone knows a woman who has died in childbirth.”

The isolation of these communities is extreme. “People don’t have the money to travel and access healthcare, so we bring it to them,” says Joe. He doesn’t always arrive by plane. “I’ve ridden in the backs of trucks, in boats, on motorbikes, even in bullock carts. The terrain is so rugged, it’s not always possible to fly in.”

Performing hundreds of procedures each week, Joe is a very skilled male nurse. He also cares deeply; “There are lots of smiles, lots of thanks,” he says.

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