During the last year life in Goroka town in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea has been particularly difficult for those individuals living on the streets. Everlyn Kunda has been working with these people for many years. She provides them with clean water, food, counselling, and accommodation for those women who find them the victims of gender and sorcery accusation related violence.
COVID 19 has meant that many of these vulnerable people now find themselves further isolated and cut off from support services. As death rates due to COVID 19 have increased in the towns and cities in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, so too have instances of domestic violence and sorcery violence.
On October 11, 2021 the Eastern Highlands went into its fifth period of lock down as the Delta variant of the virus took effect. Everlyn said “There is no space in the Goroka hospital, the wards are full, and the morgue is full and overflowing. They are now putting bodies in shipping containers.” Everlyn has been providing sick patients with food and clean water. She has witnessed first-hand the escalating rates of infection. “People are dying like animals here, and the hospital has now closed its doors.”
Everlyn has been helping solo mothers with sick children who can no longer get help from the hospital. She takes them to her house and provides them with food, an opportunity to wash, and a place to sleep. If they are well enough, Everlyn helps to arrange transport for the mothers and children back to their home villages.
“These are very difficult times right now” Everlyn explains, “while we are in lock down until November 8 2021, it is hard for people to access medicines and even basic essentials like food.”
With only 1% of Papua New Guinea’s population vaccinated, the sickness and death rates are expected to rise sharply.
Everlyn is currently supporting two solo mothers with a total of six children and one baby unwell with COVID 19. They are all staying in the small safe house where Everlyn lives and works. The next few weeks are going to be challenging as all 10 struggle to live and stay healthy in Everlyn’s small safe house.