The past 2 months have been, well, different. I treated my first case of covid pneumonia early in March, and there have been a few since then. Thanks to the Lord, these folks have all since recovered. PNG’s case load continues to grow exponentially, which is not really surprising. There has not been widespread testing until this year. Measures that have been recommended by the government to “stop” the spread (as if that were possible) have been largely ignored. It is now mandated that masks be worn in public buildings, and security generally ensures these are in place. But everyone then sits outside in large compact groups with no masks. That’s just the way it is. I am grateful that in the communities there is no longer panic, and there are fewer wild rumors than before. The only real option for this country is to let it run its course. They are seeking vaccines for health care workers, which is nice. [Absolutely I will be vaccinated whenever I get the chance.] Unfortunately, the health care workers here have chosen not to work most of the time, finding the pandemic a nice excuse. So the hospital has pretty much just shut down. I have continued to work in my own space there on the hospital property. The health care workers claim that they are afraid of contracting the virus for themselves and their families. The issue is that these same people spend most of their day wandering around town in large groups, sitting in market, chewing betel nut, etc… and no mask or hand-washing is in sight. So obviously they aren’t too concerned about disease transmission. I have tried to help as many of the sick folks as I can, but at 20-25 hours/week there is only so much I can do. 2 weeks ago I treated a couple of prisoners from the local federal facility. Since the staff had locked up the building, I worked outside. Neither had covid, but were both very sick. Thanks to the Lord they are both significantly better.
Another disappointment has been an outbreak of fighting in the Kainantu area. Because town is located along the Highlands Highway, the folks have access to quite a bit for weapons: hand grenades, rocket launchers, and automatic weapons. 19 have been killed in the last 10 days or so. Culturally, fighting and killing is a way of “life” here in PNG, and when this kind of conflict breaks out, mankind’s naturally cruel and bloodthirsty nature comes to the forefront quickly. The culture has a highly-developed system for “rules of engagement,” that continue to grow and change. Recent changes allow for some of the more horrific and brutal practices that are viewed on the internet (most people have smart phones). They also have this new availability for “weapons of mass destruction” so to speak. The last week has been tense but quiet. But my co-workers actually stayed here on the center a few nights because it was not safe in town at night. There are soldiers and security forces from other towns here, but their main role is to protect the highway and the main buildings in town. They are not to get involved in the fight. The warring factions have chosen a battle field outside of town. Thankfully that means that town is fairly quiet and safe. Because I am one of a few outsiders who works in town, nearly everyone knows who I am and where I am, and readily warn me if there is any danger. My coworkers asked me the other day what can be done to change this, and the only answer is that only the reign of the Prince of Peace in men’s hearts, and their conversion to a new nature will stop this. It is not new or surprising behavior, but it is disappointing.
With there being so few flights into PNG, mail is really slow to be delivered. But I am happy to announce that I received a Christmas box and some cards 2 weeks ago. It was really fun to get some treats in the mail, and pictures of friends in the US. The container with some clinic cargo has been here in the port for some weeks, but clearance has been VERY slow. I am praying that it will be released soon. So to my friends there on the other side of the Pacific; Merry Christmas!