UNICEF, NDoH and St John Ambulance collaborate to improve ambulance care for maternal emergencies

NASA technology originally designed to save astronauts is now saving mothers

09 June 2020
Representatives of St John Ambulance, NDoH and UNICEF announce the collaboration at a press conference
Noreen Chambers
Representatives of St John Ambulance - Vice Chairman, Ian Clough and CEO, Matt Cannon, Acting Manager for Public Health from NDoH, Dr. Daoni Esorom and UNICEF Representative, David Mcloughlin, announce the collaboration.

PORT MORESBY, 9 June 2020Paramedical care provided by ambulance officers for maternal emergencies in the National Capital District and Central Province is expected to be enhanced following a collaboration between UNICEF, St John Ambulance and the National Department of Health.

Under this collaboration, UNICEF donated five non-pneumatic anti-shock garments (NASG) to help ambulance officers provide a combination of basic life support care along with the lifesaving drug, oxytocin, to mothers in maternal emergencies.

The NASG is a low tech first aid external pressure suit used by front line emergency health workers to help stabilize women suffering from severe bleeding and shock.

“Over 80% of maternal death in Papua New Guinea result from postpartum hemorrhage. It is understood that most maternal deaths happen in the prehospital care environment, with many women being unable to reach a health facility or dying along the way. In most cases, simple treatment, like the use of the NASG, that can be provided by rural health workers or trained ambulance officers will save their life,” Chief Executive Officer of St John Ambulance, Matt Cannon said.

“Central Province has some of the poorest health outcome indicators for maternal emergencies. A mother dying from labour has a catastrophic effect on the newborn, other children and the community as a whole, “Cannon added.

This collaboration, an extension of the Saving Lives Spreading Smiles (SLSS) program funded by the Australian Government and facilitated by UNICF in partnership with the Government of PNG, will additionally also  explore ways to provide childbirth and maternal care training to upskill ambulance officers, ensure St John doctors, paramedics and nurses receive advanced neonatal emergency care training and ensure all affiliate first responder ambulances have access to NASG.

 “St John Ambulance is an important partner in paramedical and healthcare services in the National Capital District and some parts of PNG. We are pleased to accord this support and acknowledge St John for their contributions to health services in the country, especially in the area of pre-hospital care,” Acting Executive Manager for Public Health, Dr. Daoni Esorom said.

“The combination of life-saving care that the use of the NASG will contribute to is crucial. For every woman who dies in childbirth, there are 30 other women who suffer a disability because of pregnancy or childbirth related complications,” UNICEF Representative, David Mcloughlin said.

“These can be serious lifelong ailments which compromise a woman’s health, productivity, quality of life, family health and her ability to participate in community life. If a mother dies after childbirth, the likelihood of the baby dying is also much greater. UNICEF thanks the Australian Government for supporting this program that is ensuring our mothers get the care they need in an emergency,” Mcloughlin emphasised.

UNICEF also donated 1,000 certified N95 respiratory masks to St John Ambulance who are being called upon to respond to a significant increase in respiratory illness during the State of Emergency. These masks will assist ambulance officers in the National Capital District, Central and East New Britain provinces.


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Noreen Chambers
Communication Specialist
Tel: +675 321 3000


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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