Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

160927 MEDIA RELEASE_VHVs open new bank accounts

Kokoda life savers now saving money

More than 50 health volunteers have opened their first bank accounts with the support of the Kokoda Initiative Development Program (KIDP).

The program brought BSP rural agents to Kokoda and Sogeri to enable Village Health Volunteers (VHV) to complete the necessary paperwork.

VHV’s are paid allowances when they take part in Kokoda Initiative health patrols and other activities. Now they can be paid directly into their bank accounts, eliminating the risks of carrying large amounts of cash into remote communities.

KIDP is part of the partnership between PNG and Australia to support health, education and sanitation improvements along the Kokoda corridor. It has been supporting the VHV program along the Kokoda Track since it started in 2009.

KIDP Community and Public Health Officer, Dulcie Mausen said the volunteers lived in villages without access to banks or other public services, and would have been unlikely to open accounts without the help of the program.

 “For most of the locals this is new to them and they are excited,” she said.

“Now they are able to learn how to save and manage their money wisely. This will also benefit our program officers going into communities to do work. We won’t have to risk carrying in cash like we did in the past.”

David Tonogo, from Kanandara village in Kokoda, has been working as a VHV for seven years. He said he had never had a bank account before.

“I had been planning to open a bank account but it would have cost me about K200-K300 just to travel down to Popondetta town to open one. My new account will help me to save up and not spend all my money.”

Pricilla Samela, a VHV from Edevu village, Sogeri, said she’d overcome fear of putting money in the bank.

“I always saved my money at home,” she said.

“I got scared of saving in a bank. I thought I might get confused on how to use the ATM machine, or the bank people might make a mistake and my money will go missing. But now I see that everything is changing so I guess I have to change too.”

VHVs play a vital role in remote rural villages. They are trained in basic health care and serve as medics along the track. They also provide manpower for specific health projects, and support to health workers serving in rural health centres.

There are 96 trained VHVs along the Kokoda Track providing basic health services to more than 18,000 people. In their last major health patrol, in August, they visited 41 villages in three catchments, seeing 1052 outpatients and immunising 630 children.