• Bower Studio participants work on the new neonatal centre. Photo credit: The University of MelbourneBower Studio participants work on the new neonatal centre. Photo credit: The University of Melbourne

Melbourne architecture students design neonatal centre to save lives in Papua New Guinea

University of Melbourne architecture students have designed and built a neonatal care centre in Papua New Guinea, which will help save lives.  The centre will provide sanitary conditions for women giving birth in a remote area of the country.

The project was a jointly funded by the Australian High Commission Papua New Guinea’s Direct Aid Program and the University’s Bower Studio Project, which has brought together architecture students and researchers to work with Indigenous groups in remote locations in Australia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea.

The neonatal care centre includes clean running water, a sanitary neonatal centre that sleeps up to four women, and an innovative composting toilet system.  It was built in the remote coastal community of Suanam, which is three hours away from the nearest health facilities.

Dr. David O’Brien from the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning led the project team and collaborated with the community on the design of the building. He said: “This was a unique opportunity for the Master of Architecture students to enhance their design and consultation skills. The Suanum community of almost 100 people has no health facilities available to them within a three-hour radius.

“Like all coastal communities, Suanum is also at risk from rising sea levels. The traditional pit toilets flood during high tides, spreading human waste throughout the community.”

In Papua New Guinea prenatal complications are the leading form of death. Less than half of women give birth at a health facility or hospital, leading to one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, where prenatal complications are responsible for one out of every ten deaths.

Dr O’Brien explained: “Safe and clean facilities reduce the physical and mental risks for the mother and child in the first month after birth. The facilities we have designed will improve health outcomes, while also respecting the community’s strong cultural traditions.”

The University of Melbourne is one of many who will be joining us at the Open Days in March.  Come along to our Birmingham or London event for the opportunity to meet the University and find out about their programmes.  Details of the Open Days can be found here.

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