Kanabea hospital and school are located in the Kotidanga Local Government area, highlands of the Gulf Province, where the Kamea people live. It is a remote area and can only be reached by plane. The PNG Foundation supports the Kanabea hospital/clinic, servicing a population of 20,000 Kamea and the primary school with 600 students.
The Kamea are members of the Angan-speaking group, which consists of approximately 70,000 people. They are part of the Kotidanga Local level Government (LLG), and inhabit an area covering parts of Morobe, Gulf, and Eastern Highland Provinces.
The Kamea community in the Kotidanga Local Government area, highlands of the Gulf Province, live isolated and do not have health and education services as the coastal and urban areas of PNG have. It can only be reached by plane, because it is located in very rugged mountainous terrain, over 100 kilometres from the coast, and 250 km northwest of Port Moresby. Elevation is between 1000-1600 m above sea level with a minimum temperature of 12°C, maximum of 27°C and a yearly rainfall of 4000-7000 mm.
The remoteness and rugged geography contribute to many developmental challenges. Hospital and school buildings, infrastructure, water supply, sanitation, electricity supply and all completely inadequate. Furthermore there is a comprehensive lack of resources for the most basic functioning of the hospital and school.
The remote area of the highlands of the Gulf province started to be opened up in the 1960s by the French Catholic Mission. The founder and first French priest stationed at Kanabea mission was Father Jean Besson. Unfortunately, he died in a plane crash in the area. In the early 1980’s, the French mission ended and was taken over by the Australian Catholic Mission from Melbourne. Father John Flynn expanded the mission station and built a primary school and a rural hospital. Dr Maurice Adams became the first medical doctor to work in Kanabea rural hospital.
A small hydro system was set up to provide some electricity to the hospital. John Ward first visited PNG in 1969 as a volunteer whilst he was studying for the priesthood and learned to fly light aircraft in the RAAF as part-time chaplain, in 1974. He flew many groups to PNG during the 1970s while he was a priest in the Sale Diocese in Victoria, Australia. Since the 1970’s, Sisters de Cluny have been involved in the school, in the hospital, in Distance Education for school leavers, in catechetics, women’s groups and youth groups, and general mission management. John worked at Kanabea as a priest and pilot for three years between 1981-83.
After the death of Dr Maurice Adams and Father John Flynn, the hospital and school went downhill. Melbourne Overseas Mission withdrew funding. AusAid funded and supported to build 3 extra school classrooms and a library for the primary school. AusAid als donated a solar vaccine fridge for the hospital. Both the school and the hospital are now funded by the PNG government, through Catholic Education and Health, Kerema diocese, Kerema, Gulf province.
The Sisters de Cluny, have continued to be involved in the school, in the hospital, in Distance Education for school leavers, in catechetics, women’s groups and youth groups, and general mission management.
John Ward set up the PNG Foundation in 2005 and has been flying in a range of volunteers to Kanabea on a yearly basis.
The Sisters de Cluny continue to be involved in the school, in the hospital, in Distance Education for school leavers, providing support and professional development of literacy school teachers, in catechetics, women’s groups and youth groups, and general mission management.
John Ward has been continuing with the PNG Foundation and has been flying in a range of volunteers to Kanabea on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, there are no doctors working in the hospital on a permanent basis. The hospital is run by one Health Extension Officer, a nurse and 7 Community Health Workers.