BY ELIAS NANAU
Thirty-nine weeks into toughening rules on border security and the eventual implementation of the State of Emergency (SoE), there has been subtle if not rapid change in how we have been doing things.
From household and food hygiene, to social meetings, shopping, movement and the list is quite lengthy.
Cleanliness tops the practice that we pay much attention to like it is second nature.
Hand sanitisers have become increasingly popular and when we enter a building, shop or at our homes, we respond to ensuring our hands are sanitized or washed thoroughly with soap for 20 seconds.
In the development space, reality strikes and thrusts itself in our face when Covid-19 response teams in far flung areas encounter the brutal truth that there are damaged essential roads and other infrastructure hindering officials to travel past and raise awareness about Covid-19.
A damaged bridge in the Nuku district in West Sepik for example; or a boggy road passage between Vanimo and Aitape where Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers and provincial Covid-19 officials maneuver themselves out of it.
People are sharing on social and mainstream media about the challenges encountered. They are getting into discourse, monitoring and evaluating their enabling components of development that should make their life and living meaningful.
In the Western Province, communities do not know there is a pandemic grappling the world.
They have no access to whatever communication in telecommunication or radio broadcast.
North Fly Provincial Police Commander Chief Inspector Silva Sika says people only became aware when security personnel arrived at their remote communities and began educating them about Covid-19 and the health and hygiene measures they should follow to avoid getting the deadly virus.
Mr Sika described Western as flat with vast wetlands that can only be accessible by or on a boat through rivers and fords.
In the West Sepik province, the local radio station NBC Sandaun is off air and there is communication breakdown between the provincial Covid-19 team and the population who are sparsely spread across the lowlands and the highlands in the Telefomin-Oksapmin areas.
A public servant in Aitape, West Sepik, Jajuar Wasa has raised concern majority of the people of West Sepik are missing out on vital information about Covid-19 because the local radio station is off air.
They desire that it must be back on air soonest.
These are sticking examples of setbacks and the challenges in high cost and difficulty in bringing services to people in Papua New Guinea’s remote communities are real.
But the government and people must work zealously smart and honestly to counter the challenges and deliver services.
Forest Minister and Telefomin MP Solan Mirisim has spoken out this month when he, during a small but grand occasion during his parliamentary tenure reactivated the Telefomin District Development Agreement (TDDA).
He said working to bring development to his people is very costly.
From his K10 million annual District Services Improvement Program (DSIP) funding, at least 40 per cent is spent on logistics with only 60 per cent is spent on actual infrastructure work.
Mirisim said he needed more money and the K20 million per annum TDDA grant from Ok Tedi’s mining royalties would supplement his DSIP funds.
His district made available K300,000 to the West Sepik Province Covid-19 response.
So much has happened within the 39 weeks with criticisms and endorsements.
We note health and hygiene as biggest up beat lesson that has stuck out during the SoE.
The SoE controller has relaxed a few regulations as we transition to the ‘New Normal’.
Let us adopt those health and hygienic culture but must also endeavor to fix the dilapidated infrastructure and communication challenges exposed during the Covid-19 response work.
It is no time to blame anyone but politicians, bureaucrats and people must collaborate and address them.
Let’s live a “New Normal” with improved health and hygiene practices, fix our dilapidated infrastructure and make communication in telecommunication or radio and TV broadcast widely accessible.