A very full day in Akhamb

Martin and Elizabeth Bevan
Wed 12 Aug 2015 18:00

Position           Akhamb Island, SE Malakula

Date                Wednesday 12 August 2015


Always the weather.  Throughout our time n Vanuatu the governing factor on our activities has been the weather.  The wind was for the morrow was forecast to swing round to the east for 18 hours and having sailed so far downwind to the west this was our only chance to be able to sail directly to Port Vila.  Two days activity therefore had to be squeezed into one day, which it was.


The first task was to get kit ashore.  Once again our new dinghy showed its form as a great load carrier.


The two purple kindy bags are sitting on two crates full of medical supplies


One of our memories of Akhamb for our previous visit was just how friendly and helpful everyone was.  Possibly this is because they do not see many visiting boats.  We had also telephoned the headmaster Ivan to warn him that we were on our way with boxes and bags.  Whatever the reason when we arrived on the beach there was a veritable army of chaps ready to help us ashore and carry the goodies off to the dispensary.


Team photograph.  Everyone wanted to help


Elizabeth found that the Health Worker, Hagrif Frank, had run out of medications and was reduced to a few aspirin and magnesium trisilicate.  This whist having chronically ill patients with heart disease and advance diabetes.  Fortunately Elizabeth was able to provide substantial resupplies of drugs and dressings which provided a short term fix.


Resupplies unpacked in the dispensary


Hagrif is responsible for four communities with a total population over 1,500.  He has had one year’s training and is without any support.  He is bright willing and able but had become increasingly depressed at his own inability to help his patients due to lack of drugs and resources.  Because he is not fully trained he is not able to provide ante-natal care and childhood immunisations.  Mothers are expected to go to Lamap for these services.  Whilst we were there eight mothers with babies arrived back from a dauy trip to Lamap.  This would have involved a three hour boat trip through some open waters followed by a truck ride.  They will have had to share the 12,000 Vatu (approximately US$120, £80) cost. 


Elizabeth probably had her most distressing patient encounters here.  She was asked to see two patients.  The first had started with a minor injury which had developed into cellulitis of the whole leg with three ulcerated lesions each about a centimetre in depth and 6 to 7 cms in diameter.  The second one crawled out of her hut and lay on her side and had a large part of her calf missing due to an untreated infection complicated by her diabetes.  Both required immediate hospitalisation but there was little chance of this happening.  Elizabeth by telephone and email and with the help Lyn of the Butterfly Trust managed to persuade the medical authorities in Port Vila to fund a one way flight to Port Vila from Lamap but had no answer as to how to get a man who required assistance to walk and a lady who was stretcher case the 15 miles to the airfield.  The stark reality is that there is no means of casivacing patients.  Understandably neither patients would travel.  Hagrif was left with drugs and dressings but there is grim reality about what happens when these run out.


This really is a forgotten place so far as the medical authorities are concerned.


On a brighter note we visited the Kindy and delivered their “Bag”.


Elizabeth with Kindy Head Winnota and her daughter Melfa who has Down’s Syndrome


On our previous visit Winnota had asked if we could help with training and learning material to help her with her daughter Melfa, a most delightful child.  Donna and Jonathan had at our request brought a large amount of material back from the USA which we were able to present to a very delighted Winnota.  We also left children’s sunglasses brought from Australia and New Zealand for albino children of whom there seem to be an unusual number on the island and neighbouring communities and who suffer badly from photo sensitivity.. 



The Kindy is very well set up with a great creative play area outside.  It is a great model of what can be achieved


I was well after dark when we returned to Caduceus well aware that we had to make a very early start the next day for the 90nm passage to Port Vila.


Caduceus at anchor off Akhamb in glorious conditions