Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
The Karawari Cave Arts Project was begun by Nancy Sullivan and Associates in 1997, when it began to record some mountain caves, their historical stenciled images, and their inhabitants, in a remote part of East Sepik Province. It has since mushroomed into a much more ambitious effort, largely because the caves have been discovered to number almost 300 and are owned by some of the most remote peoples in PNG. The project now aims to produce a book of photos and stories (under consideration by the National Geographic Society); bring archeologists to the field to date some images; train local people to conserve their caves; establish the entire system as National Cultural Property; build scientific research stations; and provide the basic services to the landowners that will allow them to remain as guardians of this cultural patrimony. The most vulnerable population in the project are the semi-nomadic Penali people, a small tribe of people who move seasonally from one set of caves to another. Their health is of critical importance to the sustainability of this project and the conservation of the caves. More importantly, the health of the Penali women is in danger. We have been providing basic needs, including school fees and solar panels, and recently brought a leading PNG doctor to see them, but this is not enough. In the past two months we have been alerted to the social and medical stresses of one Penali community, where most of the young women have already died in childbirth. Barely a month ago a 14 year old girl bled to death from a miscarriage, having been the victim of a brutal gang rape by her own relatives. It is clear to us that the social and medical needs of these women is of paramount importance to their community and our project. We believe training women from neighbouring communities as Volunteer Health Workers (3 selected women are about to begin a midwife and first aid course under the guidance of the Wewak Hospital CEO, Dr Louis Samiak), and outfitting them with rucksacks of meds, will begin to redress this problem.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
We are seeking to address the gynecological-obstetric health of women in an extremely vulnerable population. These cave-dwelling semi-nomadic women have begun making gardens, and improving their diets and health. Along with the relaxation of traditional food taboos, this has allowed them to carry bigger and healthier babies to term. But the consequence is that more women are bleeding out during childbirth. They themselves believe they are suffering a sorcery curse and have become fatalists about their community’s future. Without consistent and culturally sensitive medical attention, the population will soon become unviable and forced to merge with a lowland population. In turn, this will leave their caves and their traditional lands at great risk of encroachment by more dominant highlands people and both logging and mineral developers, many of whom are already illegally surveying their hunting lands.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?
Our company has been involved in trying to establish National Cultural Property status for the extensive cave art complex (numbering more than 300 decorated caves, possible the largest such complex in the southern hemisphere) of the Penali, Ewa and Alamblak peoples of East Sepik province. We are there to record their histories and provide services that the government has not. These include solar panels, school fees, short-term employment and training. Just recently we brought the CEO of the Wewak Boram Provincial Hospital, Dr, Louis Samiak, to conduct ‘walkabaut’ clinics throughout the area. Our first task is to train and outfit three Volunteer Health Workers, all women already selected from the neighbouring communities, who will begin a course in basic first aid and midwifery under Dr. Samiak’s guidance later this year. We need to provide these women with large medical rucksacks that they can carry up to the cave sites where the vulnerable and semi-nomadic cave owners live.
Mineral and logging speculators have stepped up their surveying in the vast rainforest that embraces these caves, and threaten to enter our project area imminently. These populations have been too long neglected by the government to resist the quick windfalls some developers offer, both legally and illegally. The cave dwellers have told us repeatedly that they wish to remain on their land, but we must bring basic services to these populations to help them make their own choice, freely, and/or fight the threat of their removal by developers.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
In 2010 we hope to be able to send three women from the villages of Awim, Moinene and Yimas to courses in heath and midwifery in the provincial capital of Wewak. At the same time Dr. Louis Samiak will be helping us outfit rucksacks with basic medical needs for these remote communities. For 2011 and 2012 these volunteer health workers will be establishing patrol schedules for the communities living in and near the caves: the Penali, Ewa and Alamblak peoples. Our company has already been covering the school fees for the children in these three villages, and brought solar panels to three riverside villages where we have established base camps for our project. These panels can eventually run refrigerators for inoculations for all these stakeholder communities. By the end of 2012 we hope to have raised enough money to build a basic aid post in one of these communities, Awim, where a government aid post officer can be placed and help anchor these patrolling volunteers.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
We hope to establish National Cultural Property status for the caves and their surrounding bush over roughly 60 km of mountainside that includes the headwaters of the Arafundi and Karawari Rivers. This, in turn, will ensure the viability of these populations in their ancestral sites, and attract the government services like health and education to these long-neglected communities. Our mobile clinic initiatives can then be taken over by the Provincial Health Department.