The “Waiting Village” we’ve been waiting for


Giving birth is a serious business, and best done under medical supervision. But getting to a hospital in time hasn’t always been easy in Southern Highlands Province, that has some of the more remote communities in PNG.

Nowadays, however, it has become easier for those living in Pimaga District of Southern Highlands. Up and running since December 2018, Pimaga Maternal Waiting Village is a welcome new “home away from home” for mothers-to-be. It’s a place where they are welcome to stay in the final weeks of pregnancy, and safely await the onset of labour.

Located right next door to the Pimaga District Hospital, the village is a partnership between the Oil Search Foundation, Southern Highlands Provincial Health Authority, District Development Authority, and Pimaga Community. It is built with local labour and materials. Equipped with separate rooms, mattresses, electricity, toilets and showers, it’s filled with modern comfort and combines them with features like a traditional-style kitchen building, “haus win” and gardens.

“The idea is to give mothers an atmosphere very much like their home to make them comfortable and relaxed,” says hospital supervisor, Michael Puma. “We also allow the husband and younger children to accompany the mother and share her room.”

“The village came about because of the high maternal death rates experienced in Pimaga district. Women need to access a trained health provider to deliver their babies, which is very hard in remote areas, due to distance – health services can be up to a full day walk and financial constraints.”

Lovina John is one of 22 women since the new service opened to have safely delivered her baby after a stay at the village – and her husband is still singing its praises. “In the past we men were not around, so mothers faced stress and pain alone,” Chris says. “This is better because we are around to support to our wives during a very special time. We should do away with the traditional custom where men are not near their wives during labour.”

Lovina, meanwhile, is “very happy with Oil Search Foundation for this village. I was more relaxed and I had no complications like in the past, when the placenta was delayed for many hours.”

In a land where maternal deaths have long been too high, waiting villages are just what we’ve been waiting for.