Poverty in New GuineaThe island of New Guinea is immense, being the world’s second-largest island over 300,000 square miles in size. Additionally, it has nearly 15 million people divided between the independent country of Papua New Guinea and the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. Poverty in New Guinea is a pressing issue in all three of these political regions of the island.

History of Indonesian New Guinea

The provinces of West Papua and Papua joined Indonesia following a vote in which elders voted in front of occupying Indonesian troops in 1969. The western half of the island became one province. In 2003 it became split into West Papua and Papua.

Poverty Rates

This lack of local control is an essential component of poverty in New Guinea as the populace of the western half of the island lacks political control of their vast natural resources. Papua and West Papua are the poorest regions of Indonesia. These two provinces are incredibly rich in mineral and timber resources. Despite billions of dollars of resource extraction a year, these resources have not helped the local populace as more than a quarter of the population is in poverty.

Much like Indonesian New Guinea, Papua New Guinea has a wealth of natural resources. Despite these resources 37% of the population lives in poverty. This has occurred as unfortunately, the country’s immense natural resources have not been used to substantially improve the standard of living in the country.

Child Poverty in New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, illiteracy remains prevalent and rural areas have less access to schools as less than 50% of rural children attend school. Child hunger is another component of poverty in the country. Evidence shows that many children in Papua New Guinea are malnourished, and 43% suffer a delay in growth due to insufficient food.

Poverty in New Guinea also heavily impacts children in Indonesian New Guinea. Child hunger rates are very high in Papua, as about 40% of children have stunted growth due to malnutrition. The province has made improvements in terms of schooling, but nearly 40% of children do not attend school.

In West Papua, about 45% of children have stunted growth due to malnutrition. However, the overwhelming majority of children do attend school, with only 12% not attending. This is the highest rate of school participation on the island between the three political areas.

Healthcare in New Guinea

In the Indonesian Papua, healthcare is far from ideal. There are very few medical personnel in Papua to serve the population as “some Papuan districts have less than one doctor and five nurses per 10,000 people.” Additionally, health clinics are typically under supported in the province. Healthcare access became further complicated because much of the population live in remote regions that are difficult to access.

The impact of healthcare on poverty in New Guinea is felt in neighboring Papua New Guinea. There is a very similar level shortage of medical personnel in Papua New Guinea as in Indonesian Papua. There are “0.5 physicians per 10,000 population and 5.3 nurses per 10,000 population.” The lack of medical personnel in Papua New Guinea became further complicated by “low wages and poor physical infrastructure.”

Poverty in New Guinea is an important issue that faces the entire island despite being separated into different political regions. Poverty rates remain high across the island despite the natural resource wealth of the island. Child malnutrition, lack of school attendance and healthcare access impact Papua, West Papua and Papua New Guinea.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Wikimedia

Development Projects in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a vast, resource-rich country stretched across multiple islands in the western Pacific. Home to 8 million people, Papua New Guinea remains one of the poorest countries in the region, despite its rapidly growing economy. Long dependent on the export of rare minerals, Papua New Guinea is building large infrastructure projects across the country as well as enlisting foreign aid and assistance.  Here are five development projects in Papua New Guinea:

Motukea and Lae Port Projects

The government of Papua New Guinea is partnering with ICTSI, a port management company from the Philippines, to build a large port and logistics hub at Motukea island, just outside the capital of Port Moresby in the southeast. The Port of Motukea Project would move container traffic outside of the busy capital, and aims to turn the country into a hub for maritime trade in the region. ICTSI and the government are also collaborating on other development projects in Papua New Guinea including building a flagship new port in the northeast in Lae, the country’s second-largest city.

World Bank’s Urban Youth Employment Project

Papua New Guinea has one of the world’s highest rates of youth unemployment, especially in urban and poorer areas. The World Bank is supporting many development projects in Papua New Guinea, particularly a project designed to provide job training and employment opportunities for jobless young Papua New Guineans in the capital of Port Moresby. The project has trained over 15,000 people — 40 percent of them women — and has placed 35 percent of participants in full-time paid jobs since it began in 2011.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Program

Papua New Guinea’s vast highlands region comprises the country’s seven landlocked provinces, home to around 40 percent of the population. The area is poorly connected to the coastal capital and is dominated by small-scale rural agriculture. The ADB is investing in a project to build a modern 2-lane highway crossing the province and connecting over 1,800 km of local feeder roads, providing a link between major urban centers and the hinterlands. The National Highlands Highway is one of the government’s flagship development projects in Papua New Guinea.

The European Commission (EC)’s Millennium Village Development Pilot Project

Papua New Guinea is still a country of subsistence farmers, with over 85 percent of the population depending on it as of 2015. In a pilot project running from 2011 to 2015, the European Commission targeted four communities, seeking to improve rural services and infrastructure in the country’s most rural areas. The EC chose four villages in three of Papua New Guinea’s poorest regions — the landlocked Highlands; Momase in the north, home to the second-largest city of Lae; and the Milne Bay islands in the southeast. The pilot project improved access to healthcare, education and job training, as well as investing in development projects across Papua New Guinea.

Ramazon Hydropower Plant Project in Bougainville

Papua New Guinea is investing in large hydropower plants to increase its share of renewable energy, as well as modernizing and renewing aging plants it already depends on. Norwegian engineering firm Multiconsult is partnering with the government on a new 3-Megawatt hydropower plant in Ramazon on the autonomous island region of Bougainville, as well as several other infrastructure development projects in Papua New Guinea including rehabilitating older hydropower stations at Yonki Dam in the Highlands and Warangoi on the island of New Britain.

Despite its diverse and challenging geography, Papua New Guinea is seeking to build infrastructure and power projects to drive economic development. Development projects in Papua New Guinea span from the capital to the country’s poorest areas, involving foreign firms and international aid groups in a cross-sector approach to development.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Water Quality
As more than 80 percent of the population lives in remote areas with little to no modern facilities, Papua New Guinea struggles with poor water quality and a lack of awareness about basic human health necessities. With very little access to clean water, sanitation is poor and disease is rampant.

As access to safe water and sanitation are vital to the basic health needs, the population in this area is at risk. Poor hygiene leads to poor health and illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea, which kill people every day.

Here are nine facts about water quality in Papua New Guinea:

  1. Papua New Guinea has the poorest level of access to clean water in the world, with more than 60 percent of the population living without access to clean water.
  2. Since 1990, access to clean water has only gone up by six percent and improved sanitation coverage actually dropped by one percent.
  3. Of the 15 developing Pacific Island nations, Papua New Guinea has the lowest water and sanitation access indicators.
  4. The average cost of 50 liters of water (the minimum amount of water necessary for human sanitation and well-being) in Papua New Guinea’s capital is £1.84 per day, which is half the average daily salary (£3.61). The average cost of 50 liters of water in the U.K. is £0.07 per day.
  5. Approximately 4.8 million people in Papua New Guinea do not have access to clean water and 6.2 million people do not have a basic toilet.
  6. More than 200 children in Papua New Guinea die of diarrhea each year due to lack of sanitation and clean water.
  7. Because 85 percent of the population lives in rural areas, education about sanitation and the importance of clean water is scarce.
  8. According to Oxfam New Zealand, contaminated water in Papua New Guinea kills 368 people every six weeks.
  9. Papua New Guinea launched the National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) policy in 2015.

These nine facts about water quality in New Guinea reveal a serious issue that extends beyond just access to water. With little to no progress being made toward access to water and sanitation since 1990, Papua New Guinea must look to its foreign donors and its domestic leaders to address this issue.

Tucker Hallowell

Photo: Flickr