Flora Iketa Tenakanai, 32, is passionate about reducing Papua New Guinea’s high maternal mortality rate through the provision of family planning services in East New Britain.
The mother of three is a registered nurse at the new Marie Stopes clinic at Nonga General Hospital in Rabaul, which officially opened on 5 April. Flora provides family planning guidance to men and women at the clinic and during outreach services to remote villages.
Originally from Ratongor in Gazelle District, she was inspired to become a nurse in maternal and child health after seeing preventable deaths in her community.
“When I was back in the village, I saw a lot of young girls get pregnant at a very early age. Some of their babies died due to birth complications and this saddened me. I decided to become a nurse to help them avert early pregnancy and to deliver their babies safely,” recalls Flora.
After graduating from St Margaret’s School of Nursing in Popondetta in 2017, Flora first worked as a general nurse at Rabaul Urban Clinic. It was there she attended her first Marie Stopes training and learned about the importance of planning and spacing pregnancies for the wellbeing of both mother and child.
“When I was with the Rabaul Urban Clinic, I attended a training on family planning conducted by Marie Stopes. The training covered how to do counselling and how to apply short-term and long-term contraceptive methods,” recalls Flora.
“After the training, I made sure that I never missed a client who came in for family planning. As a result, I inserted a number of intra-uterine devices, implants and injections to women to prevent pregnancies. When I applied for the Marie Stopes role earlier this year, they had no hesitation in recruiting me due to my prior training and experience.”
PNG has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The lifetime risk of women dying during pregnancy is one in 120. Women in remote and poor areas often miss out on adequate health care due to limited facilities and skilled health workers.
With the support of Australia, Marie Stopes is addressing barriers to health care through the training and delivery of services in sexual and reproductive health, family planning, and maternal and child health in 14 provinces across the country.
Since 2018, Marie Stopes in Rabaul has trained 30 health workers and reached over 750 men and women through clinic and outreach patrols, with more than 2,000 contraceptives provided to couples.
Equipped with her family planning kit, Flora enjoys explaining the different contraception methods to women and men during counselling and awareness sessions.
“When people are empowered with the right knowledge on family planning, they are able to make the right choices for their lives,” said Flora.
“Helping a couple choose the right family planning option and seeing the wonderful smiles of mothers and their healthy babies inspires me to do more. Now that I am with Marie Stopes, I am very optimistic that we will continue to break down barriers to accessing family planning, and to secure a happy and healthy future for the people of East New Britain and PNG.”
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Flora Iketa Tenakanai explains different family planning options to expectant mother Margaret John at the new Marie Stopes clinic at Nonga Base Hospital in Rabaul.