This page is optimized for a taller screen. Please rotate your device or increase the size of your browser window.

Changing Lives on the Kokoda Track through Disability Assessment Training

Remote communities along Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) iconic Kokoda Track are benefiting from the rollout of disability assessments and training by Abt Global for use by health workers, who have used them to implement lifechanging interventions and referrals for people with disabilities.

The Kokoda Track is PNG’s most popular tourist destination and, before-COVID-19, attracted thousands of trekkers each year. But the remoteness and difficult terrain that tourists find so alluring present significant challenges to the delivery of services to local communities. People in these villages can face multiday walks to access healthcare, and people with disabilities are particularly impacted, often going unsupported.

The Kokoda Initiative

The Australian Government supported, Abt-managed Kokoda Initiative is working to improving the quality of life for people in the region by implementing disability assessment and interventions as a regular part of health service delivery.

Last year, the Initiative partnered with Callan Services, who conducted a pilot disability assessment in the region – the first step towards a comprehensive disability survey for the region. The pilot assessment aimed to provide a better understanding of disabilities, including the types of impairments and their prevalence, and inclusion issues for people with disabilities.

It also raised awareness among health and education workers about the use of disability-sensitive interventions and promoted better access to services. During the assessments, 90 communities in the Kokoda Track region were visited and screening was conducted in communities, health facilities and schools.

This was also a chance for Kokoda Initiative-supported village health volunteers to learn to provide appropriate referrals to people with disabilities. Abt leverages the Kokoda Initiative’s extensive network of schools, health centres and villages to connect teachers, health workers and village health volunteers who can all play a role in improved support services.

Earlier this year, more than 50 village health volunteers were trained to detect hearing and vision impairments, and other physical disabilities. They are ready to conduct disability assessments, provide basic healthcare services to persons with disabilities and refer patients for specialised examination and rehabilitation.

More than 3,000 people had their hearing and eyesight tested by the Initiative, and many with eyesight issues received prescription glasses on the spot. The testing also assessed the gaps in accessibility and disability support services, and identified people with other types of disabilities.

Among them was 13-year-old Maya Dibuda who the team met in Kagi village, Mt Koiari. Maya was born with Cerebral Palsy – a permanent movement disorder than can cause poor coordination, stiff and weak muscles, and tremors. The Kokoda Initiative supported the delivery of a special wheelchair to help Maya sit up comfortably, be more independent, and better participate in community life.

The disability survey showed that health workers and health volunteers can be the first point of contact for more people like Maya, conducting screening for people with disability, prescribe glasses and make referrals. The disability assessment training will be used to assess the potential for comprehensive training for health workers, extending support for persons with disabilities even further as Abt continues to identify ways to enhance the quality of life for Kokoda Track region communities, including people with disabilities.

Work With Us
Ready to change people's lives? We want to hear from you.
We do more than solve the challenges our clients have today. We collaborate to solve the challenges of tomorrow.