Human Trafficking in Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea is a cluster of islands located near Indonesia with a population of 9.8 million. In 2022, the State Department classified the country as a Tier 2 nation, which indicates that while the government is making significant strides to eliminate human trafficking, it has not yet met the minimum requirements to do so. The people of Papua New Guinea are at an increased risk for human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking and forced labor. Approximately 30% of the victims of human trafficking in Papua New Guinea are under the age of 18. Typically, their families are responsible for exploiting them. Forced labor is widespread, with children forced to beg or sell goods on the streets, while young boys are armed and pushed into participating in inter-tribal conflict. Human traffickers also use Papua New Guinean children as porters and in illegal gold panning operations. Additionally, human traffickers exploit foreign citizens by using Papua New Guinea as a transit site.

Sex Trafficking and Servitude

In Papua New Guinea, young girls are frequently subjected to forced marriage or sex trafficking by their family members. Often, this happens in a bid to settle disputes between communities, repay debts or make profits. Additionally, some young women in Papua New Guinea are coerced into domestic servitude to support their families. Human traffickers lure girls and women with false promises of legal employment and exploit them in sex trafficking or servitude. Furthermore, traffickers bring foreign women into Papua New Guinea with fraudulent visas and force them into servitude and sex trafficking, particularly in mining and logging operations.
Human traffickers force both local citizens and foreign nationals into forced labor. Traffickers force men to work as miners and loggers. The fishing industry also relies on human trafficking. To gain work on fishing ships, foreign and local men are charged recruitment fees, which can escalate into a debt they are unable to pay off, leading to indefinite work in inhumane conditions. Human trafficking affects all members of the population, regardless of age or nationality, in Papua New Guinea.

Corruption and Human Trafficking

Logging and mining are two of Papua New Guinea’s primary industries. Unfortunately, many of the officials in these industries are corrupt. According to the State Department’s 2022 assessment of the nation, the rampant corruption amongst officials within the logging industry allows for human traffickers to maintain sex trafficking and forced labor at logging locations. This corruption is not limited to those in the foresting industry, as officials throughout the government permit human trafficking in Papua New Guinea. The government allows companies to push workers into forced labor in the fishing and logging industries. Also, some members of the government take bribes to allow trafficking victims into the country, and others exploit victims in order to gain political support.

Lack of Awareness

Apart from corruption, another hindrance to preventing human trafficking in Papua New Guinea is the lack of awareness and resources. Papua New Guinea’s government has engaged in no awareness campaigns to inform the public of the dangers of human trafficking and how to combat it. It has also not dedicated resources to the fight against human trafficking. There are more than 20 provinces in Papua New Guinea, and each one has only two labor inspectors. This is not enough to implement the required inspections across industries and prevent incidents of forced labor or sex trafficking. No members of the government, including diplomats, received anti-trafficking training. This lack of awareness and resources, alongside government corruption, makes fighting human trafficking in Papua New Guinea a challenging endeavor.

Efforts Against Trafficking

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations entity, is working to stop human trafficking in Papua New Guinea. The organization has worked with local law enforcement, government agencies, NGOs and private sector partners in the country. Together, these agencies have followed the “4Ps” framework: Partnership, Prevention, Prosecution and Protection. The IOM provides direct assistance to both international and domestic victims of sex trafficking or forced labor.

Looking Ahead

>While human trafficking is an issue in Papua New Guinea, primarily due to a lack of resources and awareness, there have been ongoing efforts to combat it. With the work of organizations such as IOM, trafficking survivors are able to reunite with their families. As organizations such as IOM continue the fight, hopefully, the tide will continue to shift against human trafficking in Papua New Guinea.
– Madison Tomaso
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Maternal Mortality in Papua New Guinea
For many, the birth of a child is a cause for joy, but it is an experience that instills apprehension in many women in Papua New Guinea (commonly known as PNG). Their fear is understandable — UNICEF estimates that, annually, 580 women die during childbirth in the island nation, equalling one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Understanding the reasons behind these high rates of maternal mortality in Papua New Guinea is instrumental in implementing solutions to save the lives of new mothers.

4 Key Facts About Maternal Mortality in Papua New Guinea

  1. Many maternal deaths are entirely preventable. A 2018 report from ChildFund Alliance reported that the majority of mothers in Papua New Guinea who die during or immediately after childbirth suffer from relatively common complications. These include infections like sepsis and severe bleeding, as well as eclampsia, which causes high blood pressure resulting in seizures. Complications can also arise from diseases like malaria and HIV, which are prevalent in the country. Controlling these communicable diseases could have a significant impact on the number of potentially fatal complications during pregnancy.
  2. Inadequate funding for health care systems. This is one of the most significant challenges that Papua New Guinea is facing, especially in rural areas. With 87% of the population living in remote villages with few transportation options, accessing health services is prohibitively difficult for many, according to a 2017 World Bank report. Many women, having no means of transportation, are forced to walk several kilometers to reach health care facilities, a practice that medical professionals advise against during advanced stages of pregnancy. However, these women have no other option. According to a 2018 ChildFund Australia report, rural health care centers often have no running water and no electricity or ambulances to transport patients. In fact, some health care centers have had to close due to underfunding and staff shortages. An independent health system review also highlights the misuse of health care funding in Papua New Guinea. Citing a study of rural health care expenditures in 2010, evaluators found that “two-thirds of the provinces spent little or nothing on drug and medical supply distribution” and provinces allocated minimal finances to facilitate emergency patient transfers. Rural health care centers at large faced severe underfunding.
  3. Lack of information is a factor. The topic of sex is a cultural taboo in Papua New Guinea and workshops hosted by James Cook University to educate women from the Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea found that many of them did not know much about sexual health. The ability to identify sexual and reproductive health issues when they arise is crucial for maintaining positive long-term health outcomes, but the cultural context makes talking about such topics difficult for women. Many women are also misinformed about pregnancy and childbirth. A World Health Organization survey of PNG women shows that the women are aware of the mortality risks during labor, but believe this to be “a normal part of life” and are unaware that maternal mortality is preventable. However, improved access to and higher quality service at health care facilities could be a significant preventative measure against common fatal infections and complications. As it stands, women in rural villages often give birth in temporary structures alongside birth attendants with little formal training or access to equipment, according to ChildFund Alliance.
  4. Insufficient data for assessments and solutions. A 2019 article published in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters pointed out how little there is to work with when it comes to in-country surveys and statistics. Data on subjects like adolescent birth rates, breastfeeding and postnatal care is lacking, and the authors point out that this makes it difficult to find effective solutions and assess maternal health progress. The WHO corroborates this finding — it estimates that health care facilities in six provinces of Papua New Guinea do not report more than half of maternal deaths. The actual figure is likely higher as maternal deaths that occur within residences typically go unreported.

Making a Difference

Send Hope Not Flowers is a charitable organization founded in Australia that “aims to help mothers to survive childbirth in the developing world.”

In 2015, it partnered with Living Child to send medical supplies and resources to training programs in villages in Papua New Guinea. Send Hope Not Flowers even secured a grant of $20,000 AUD to supply models for medical personnel in training to work on for a better understanding of how to deal with medical emergencies during childbirth.

The Highlands Foundation tackles maternal mortality in Papua New Guinea by sending volunteers, who include trained medical personnel, to travel to the country to assist staff in looking after patients, and in some cases, train new doctors, nurses and midwives.

The Foundation also provides kits to health workers to provide the necessary care to women during pregnancy and childbirth. These contain essential medical supplies, like thermometers and disposable gloves and masks, which birth attendants can easily transport to remote areas. Access to these supplies is potentially life-saving, especially in areas with no nearby health care facilities.

Looking Ahead

Maternal mortality in Papua New Guinea is a solvable problem. More detailed research paired with regular and accurate data collection will reveal key areas to focus on and more funding will provide rural areas with better tools and facilities to fight complications and, in some cases, prevent them altogether.

– Abbi Powell
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sex Trafficking in Papua New GuineaEvery year, both citizens and tourists fall victim to sex trafficking in Papua New Guinea (PNG). PNG is also used as a common transit point to aid in exploiting individuals from other countries.

What is Happening in Papua New Guinea?

The U.S. Department of State placed PNG on a Tier Two Watch List. “The government of Papua New Guinea does not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so,” according to the U.S. Department of State report. There are many challenges and attributes to consider when evaluating sex trafficking in Papua New Guinea. Although PNG lacks a lot of resources, the country has begun to improve in its elimination of sex trafficking.

As one of the World’s least developed countries, PNG faces many challenges with education, advocacy and law enforcement of sex trafficking. Furthermore, the country has not prioritized the incarceration of traffickers. According to the TIP 2021 report, PNG did not report any new investigations or prosecutions in 2021.

Since its Criminal Code Amendment in 2013, PNG has only prosecuted one individual that resulted in incarceration in November 2020. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PNG has seen a decrease in all criminal investigations, with minimal energy spent on sex trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State.

The Efforts

Although sex trafficking in PNG may look glum, the country is continuing to work toward the goal of elimination. Since the release of the 2020 Trafficking in Person (TIP) report, PNG has gone from Tier Three to a Tier Two Watch List. The main difference in these tiers is that as a Tier Three, it is stated there is no effort to eliminate trafficking.

PNG has also made slight efforts to broadcast and spread awareness to the public. On the country’s national day against human trafficking, “local authorities sponsored an article in their national newspaper to increase general awareness of trafficking,” according to the Tier Two Watch List.

In coordination with law enforcement agencies, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has provided aid for both international and domestic victims. In 2019, PNG launched a “safe bus” in the capital city of Port Moresby which expanded to Lae. The bus began as a result of sexual harassment and assault on public transportation. Since its implementation, it has kept women and children safe in transit to and from work and school.

There are many providers of aid internationally, including the U.N., IOM and the U.S. government. Within the TIP reports, the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons also provides Prioritized Recommendations. Most notably, the recommendations, among others, include “implementing existing standard operating procedures (SOPs), increasing protective services for victims of trafficking, instituting a policy framework, increasing awareness of and participating in the committee by civil society and protection stakeholders and acceding to the 2000 U.N. TIP Protocol.”

The Progress

As a Tier Two Watch List country, the elimination of sex trafficking in Papua New Guinea is slowly improving. However, a lot of work needs to be done to accomplish this. With “an acute lack of financial and human resources,” according to the U.S. Department of State, PNG struggles to make strides.

Although domestic attempts to eliminate sex trafficking may appear minimal, the country has shown great growth by improving on the TIP Tier list. International support such as aid from the U.S. and the U.N. is continuing to rise. The government has followed prioritized recommendationssuch as amending the criminal code in 2013.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. It can be difficult to look past such daunting statistics. However, PNG is growing its resource pool and on the road to the elimination of sex trafficking. With the continued support of foreign aid, sex trafficking in Papua New Guinea could improve.

– Sierra Winch
Photo: Flickr

Lighting Papua New Guinea Program
Papua New Guinea is an extremely remote island nation located across from Indonesia on the same piece of land and just north of continental Australia. Despite a small population of just 8 million people, the island is very diverse — it is home to more than 800 unique languages and more than 10,000 ethnic groups living throughout the 600 total islands. More than 80% of the inhabitants live in rural locations, however, there are “only 18 people per square kilometer,” making Papua New Guinea “one of the least densely populated” nations on the planet. Only 13% of the total population has access to electricity. The Lighting Papua New Guinea Program has created innovative solutions to provide power to this underserved part of the world.

The Perfect Climate for Solar Power on Papua New Guinea

The majority of the islands of Papua New Guinea experience more than “300 days of sunshine” every year, presenting the perfect solution and climate to implement large-scale solar power projects. The Lighting Papua New Guinea program primarily focuses on remote areas deep in the wilderness, where the majority of the population lives. Since the start of 2014, the program has provided power to 1.8 million people, approximately 22% of the nation’s total population.

Before the Lighting Papua New Guinea program started islanders would go hours at a time without any substantial light. Students struggled to complete their homework and other essential tasks were much more difficult. Most families only had dim kerosene lamps to use for reading and cooking. The islanders have expressed their satisfaction with the program, noting how portable and dependable solar power is, as well as the difference the program has made in their quality of life.

International Support and Growth of Papua New Guinea’s Markets

The Lighting Papua New Guinea Program receives financial support from both Australia and New Zealand. Remote villages and other hard-to-reach locations have benefitted the most with small business profits rising through selling solar power products and household costs decreasing thanks to more efficient energy solutions. According to the energy advisor of the program, Subrata Barman, a whole new market for solar power in Papua New Guinea took root by creating awareness about high-quality lighting solutions and drawing interest from global manufacturers to partner with people living in Papua New Guinea to take the products to those who need them most.

The Lighting Papua New Guinea program’s partner, Lighting Global, is the World Bank Group’s project to provide off-grid energy through solar power to 1 billion people worldwide who lack electricity. Origin Energy Australia has provided those living in Papua New Guinea an affordable business model, by paying a monthly rate for solar-powered lights and cell phone chargers, as well as radios that rooftop solar panels power.

The model is completely new for many islanders who have never had the opportunity to use banking and credit services. Origin Energy Australia has also provided home solar power kits distributed by salesmen who travel from village to village. The kit costs $250 and follows the same pay-as-you-go system as Origin’s other solar products, with a required 20% deposit and the rest paid over a period of 12 months. Thus far, the kits have been a huge success in providing affordable solar lighting and improving citizens’ quality of life.

Papua New Guinea Leading the Way in Off-Grid Solar Power

Through the Lighting Papua New Guinea program, Papua New Guinea has developed into a world leader in advocating for solar power. Replacing kerosene lamps with solar-powered products throughout the nation has reduced greenhouse emissions by approximately 28,000 metric tons per year which has the same impact as “taking 6,000 cars off the road.” Australia, New Zealand and the Lighting Papua New Guinea program are utilizing their partnership to increase private sector investment throughout not just Papua New Guinea but the Pacific as a whole in order to mitigate poverty throughout the region. Papua New Guinea is hopeful that 100% renewable energy is possible by the year 2050 throughout the entire nation.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Unsplash

Foreign Aid in the PhilippinesAs of 2021, the Philippines is the 12th most populated country, with a population of approximately 109 million people. Industrialization in the country has increased, poverty has decreased — from 23.3% in 2015 to 16.6% in 2018 — and the Philippines has one of the lowest household debts in Asia. However, it has been historically known as a frequent recipient of foreign aid.

Top Aid Givers

Some notable givers of foreign aid in the Philippines are Japan, the United States, Australia, Korea, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As of 2018, Japan was still the largest source of foreign aid in the Philippines. The aid comes in the form of grants and loans that total $5.98 billion for projects throughout the country. One notable project is a subway in Manila, Philippines. The World Bank comes in next with $3.13 billion, followed by the ADB with $2.24 billion.

The United States is another large investor of foreign aid in the Philippines. The aid provided is used to advance democratic values, promote peace and security and improve education and health. Disaster relief and recovery have become a large part of aid to the Philippines. The U.S. donated more than $143 million to help the country recover from the devastating typhoon in 2013.

The Philippines and Papua New Guinea

In 2018, the Philippines, usually a receiver of foreign aid, had the chance to give foreign aid to another country. Papua New Guinea struggled with the drop in oil prices worldwide; oil was a major export for the country. Papua New Guinea needed to diversify its economy, and the government of the Philippines agreed to give aid to the struggling country through a partnership. The aid took the form of helping with industrial crops, inland fish farming and agriculture, particularly rice production.

Growing rice in tropical countries can be particularly tricky. The Philippines, however, has expertise in many different strains of rice — some of which can even hold up in severe weather like typhoons — and has even previously passed on knowledge to other countries in Africa and Brunei. Through the cooperation between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, President Duterte believes food security can be ensured.

COVID-19 Aid to the Philippines

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, 14 countries sent foreign aid to the Philippines, either in cash or through in-kind aid, such as medical supplies. These countries include Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, France, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, among others. Many of the countries donated personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks, test kits and ventilators to help the Philippines combat the novel coronavirus.

China sent a team of experts to help treat patients and shared packs of rice in remembrance of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties. Japan sent experts as well, and the U.S. made monetary donations of approximately $4 million and $5.9 million respectively to help prepare labs to process novel coronavirus test kits and to help local governments respond to the outbreak.

South Korea has donated more than $5 million in humanitarian assistance to the Philippines during the pandemic. Korean Ambassador Han Dong-Man said this was to honor what the Filipino soldiers did to help in the Korean War. South Korea has helped with foreign aid in the Philippines for the past 70 years, for disasters both natural and man-made.

The Philippines has been knocked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is still potential for the country to recover. There is a vast, young workforce and a growing middle class to bolster efforts to regain footing in the country. Foreign aid in the Philippines can help the country regain the progress it had been making leading up to 2020.

– Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

4 Key Facts about Healthcare in Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea comprises the eastern portion of New Guinea and a plethora of offshore islands. With the highest infant mortality rate in the region, it is evident that the country suffers from poor health outcomes. Here are four key facts to consider to better understand the state of healthcare in Papua New Guinea.

4 Key Facts About Healthcare in Papua New Guinea

  1. Unique Geographical Challenges: Papua New Guinea features mountain ranges on the mainland as well as 600 small islands. This unique geography introduces challenges in delivering adequate healthcare services to the population, as isolated rural and remote communities are often cut off from essential healthcare services. While all countries have particular groups that are geographically isolated, the situation in Papua New Guinea is exacerbated as 80% of the population lives outside of city centers compared to the global average of 54% urbanization.
  2. Hygienic Inefficiencies: Hygenic inefficiencies occur in two ways: education and access. Awareness of proper hygiene and health operating procedures remains low in Papua New Guinea. For example, only 10% of schools in the country promote handwashing. But even if education rates were high, proper infrastructure does not exist in Papua New Guinea. Only 40% of the population has access to clean drinking water, and roughly 28% of schools have access to sanitation.
  3. Scarcity of Doctors and Nurses: For a population of more than nine million, Papua New Guinea has approximately 500 doctors and 400 nurses. The country has 0.1 physicians per 1,000 people, compared to the world average of 1.566 physicians per 1,000 people. The quality of the small healthcare force is further hindered by poor working conditionals, low wages and inadequate infrastructure. These limiting factors, combined with an inefficient training capacity, reduce the scarce healthcare workers’ performance in Papua New Guinea.
  4. Missing Resources: The lack of access to the resources necessary for health care workers to do their jobs serves only to worsen the prospects of an already struggling workforce. Recently, Papua New Guinea could not provide nurses with basic medical supplies resulting in nurses threatening a strike. Concerns regarding COVID-19 served to highlight that the country only possesses 14 ventilators. For reference, the U.S. had 160,000 ventilators before the pandemic. Even if these resources became available, many nurses and healthcare practitioners would use them inefficiently as there is a lack of adequate training regarding equipment and disease control.

The Future of Healthcare in Papua New Guinea

While the current state of healthcare in Papua New Guinea is lacking compared to global standards, there are many plans in place to increase the scope and effectiveness of healthcare efforts. The Provincial Health Authority (PHA), endorsed by Minister for Health Sir Dr. Puka Temu, is a widespread reform movement attempting to revitalize healthcare in Papua New Guinea. According to Dr. Temu, the program “will bring [Papua New Guinea’] district and provincial health systems under one umbrella, and allow [public health officials] to improve planning and funding of primary health care.”

The healthcare situation in Papua New Guinea presents both unique and general challenges. While many countries suffer from under-resourced and staffed facilities, Papua New Guinea has its unique geography to overcome. To address these concerns, the nation is preparing for the future with its Development Strategic Plan 2010-30, which aims to work alongside the National Health Plan to make Papua New Guinea “among the top 50 countries in the U.N. Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) by 2050.” International partnerships and a domestic governmental focus on health outcomes provide hope for the future of healthcare in Papua New Guinea.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Health in Papua New GuineaFor the island nation of Papua New Guinea, the COVID-19 outbreak has led to some positive developments despite the harm the pandemic has caused. Health officials state that the COVID-19 pandemic has tested medical infrastructure in Papua New Guinea, providing opportunities for the country to strengthen its healthcare system and be better able to deal with future health crises. Several organizations are committed to improving health in Papua New Guinea.

Healthcare Accessibility

Lack of accessibility to healthcare is a significant barrier for the citizens of Papua New Guinea. One of the defining characteristics of Papua New Guinea is how vast and well-dispersed the country is with roughly 600 islands. Its many secluded and remote areas may seem ideal for a vacation destination, but these qualities prove to be challenging from a healthcare perspective. Due to the abundant natural resources, around 80% of residents live off the land in rural areas that are not in close proximity to medical facilities. Despite logistical trials, the country is slowly but surely making progress.

Vaccine Distribution

As of April 12, 2021, Papua New Guinea had reported almost 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. On April 16, 2021, the Oceania nation received 132,000 vaccines from the COVAX Facility. The national vaccine rollout was launched on May 4, 2021, first focusing on the 3% of the population making up frontline workers. Considering the decentralized population and the late start in acquiring vaccines, Papua New Guinea has made progress in fighting COVID-19. By educating the population about vaccines and medical vernacular, health officials agree that efforts to combat the virus have better prepared the country for future medical crises.

Identifying Shortcomings

In addition to vaccination efforts, COVID-19 response funds are being used to create water facilities in vulnerable areas such as the North Fly District. This improvement will benefit the country on a long-term basis. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the local medical system by pointing out flaws. This has prompted Papua New Guinea to find solutions to make future outbreaks more manageable.

Weakened demand due to the pandemic has left Papua New Guinea’s economy crippling. Vaccinations are serving to remedy the economic strain as much will go back to normality once a greater part of the population is vaccinated and the economy will be stimulated. As normalcy returns, the unemployment rate and poverty rate are projected to gradually decrease. However, Papua New Guinea’s healthcare system still needs support from outside organizations in order to strengthen.

3 Organizations Supporting Healthcare in Papua New Guinea

  1. Doctors Without Borders is a humanitarian aid organization. It provides medical assistance needed around the world. In  order to improve health in Papua New Guinea, its current focus is fighting tuberculosis. With mobile clinics and less invasive treatments, the organization is able to care for patients situated in remote areas and save them the cost of travel to and from a medical facility.
  2. The PNG Foundation specifically supports approximately 70,000 Kamea people of Papua New Guinea. Rugged highland terrain creates difficulty accessing health, educational and infrastructure support. The goals of the PNG Foundation include providing basic medical care and maintaining the hospital and schools.
  3. The well-being of Papua New Guinea’s women and children lies at the heart of the Highlands Foundation’s mission. The organization combats maternal and infant mortality. Its projects include sending medical supplies, clothes, toiletries and sanitary items to hospitals in the remote areas of Papua New Guinea. The Highlands Foundation also leads training programs for local medical staff and sends volunteers to ease the pressure of the national medical personnel shortages.

Global organizations, foreign aid and private donors have aided Papua New Guinea by providing vaccines, equipment and other essential resources. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the struggles of Papua New Guinea’s healthcare system. Now that the shortcomings are apparent, Papua New Guinea will require further support and assistance in order to address these issues and strengthen healthcare in the country.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Unsplash

dual outbreaksThe impact of COVID-19 has resulted in fractured economies and health care systems all around the world. While some countries are trying to recover, others just cannot catch a break. Papua New Guinea is a country that finds itself in a unique and desperate situation. With the onset of COVID-19, the country was also hit with a resurgence of polio. Dual outbreaks are a cause of significant concern for Papua New Guinea. Australia is coming to the aid of its neighbors with a substantial financial assistance plan.

Resurgence of Polio

Papua New Guinea is one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the pacific region. The country was declared officially polio-free 18 years ago, but in 2018, the virus was rediscovered in a 6-year-old child. Shortly after, the virus also emerged in multiple other children from the same general area. Polio is especially harmful to children under 5 years old and can lead to lifelong paralysis.

A few months after the polio outbreak, the Australian Government stepped in and responded by giving $10 million to Papua New Guinea’s polio immunization crusade. A few weeks later, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) received another $6 million, which an additional $15 million dedication followed in November 2018. Rachel Mason Nunn, an experienced social development worker in Papua New Guinea, stated that “We have a window right now to invest heavily in infectious diseases in Papua New Guinea. Australia should continue to invest in health care in Papua New Guinea, if not just because it is the right thing to do, but because helping our region acquire strong health systems is a vital element of Australia’s own health security.” Australia is the largest contributor to the development of Papua New Guineas’ struggling health care system.

COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea

In an extreme case of bad luck, Papua New Guinea experienced two disease outbreaks within two years of each other. In a frantic request for aid, the government reached out to the World Health Organization (WHO) in an effort to take some weight off its already overburdened health care system.  When COVID-19 hit the county, there was a limited number of testing kits available and a shortage of medical staff as well as medical supplies and protective gear. The WHO responded by deploying emergency medical teams and supplying necessary resources to upscale testing in Papua New Guinea.

The Road Ahead

Due to the support of contributors like the WHO and Australia, millions of child polio vaccinations have been administered and a sufficient number of COVID-19 testing kits are available in the country. For a country that is still dealing with diseases like malaria and polio, the people of Papua New Guinea are pushing ahead. This unique situation serves as a global reminder that the prevention and treatment of other diseases should not be neglected during the COVID-19 pandemic and that inter-country support is essential in addressing dual outbreaks.

– Brandon Baham
Photo: Flickr

sorcery killings in Papua New GuineaSorcery — like something out of Harry Potter movies— receives a lot of focus around fall, especially on Halloween. It is a common lighthearted joke of the season. However, sorcery, magic and witches are a strong legitimate belief in some cultures, especially in Papua New Guinea. Sorcery, also known as “sanguma,” is a life or death issue in Papua New Guinea — sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea are all too common.

These murders rarely make the news, and police protection is unreliable. Those mainly accused of witchcraft and sorcery are women, which leads to gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. Since 2013, Papua New Guinea’s government has been attempting to stop this modern-day witch hunt. Despite their efforts, it’s harder than it seems. One main obstacle is the lack of awareness. This problem only gained global attention in 2017. The people of Papua New Guinea accused Justice, a 7-year-old girl, of using dark magic.

The History

Sorcery killings have been occurring in Papua New Guinea for centuries. For a period of time, their law even legalized the killings. In 1971, the Papua New Guinea government passed the Sorcery Act. This law made sorcery an illegal and criminalized act. It also made sorcery a legal defense when it came to murder trials. The act affirmed that magic is a real, plausible belief in their culture, which can be punishable by death.

Between 1980 and 2012, sorcery killings resulted in only 19 charges of murders or willful murders. Then in 2013, the Sorcery Act was repealed (the part about sorcery as an acceptable murder defense). Witchcraft practitioners were (and are) still imposed with the death penalty — although, there have been no executions since 1954.

Additionally in 2013, the government passed a Family Protection Act. The new act criminalized domestic violence and allowed women to acquire protection orders. But according to Human Rights Watch, the implementation of the law is weak.

Despite the new legal repercussions, death rates have continued to increase. Locals believe up to 50,000 people have been accused over the years, and there are 200 sorcery killings annually.

Recent Occurrences

Sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea continue today is because of the lack of punishment and law enforcement. Many public events have occurred when it comes to sorcery killings, many of which fly under the media’s radar.

In a 2016 case, four women were accused of stealing a man’s heart. After condemning the women for witchcraft, villagers attacked the women and forced them to return his heart. The man made a full recovery with his “returned” heart. While the man lived, a video surfaced of the burning, torture and death of all four women. Justice, the 7-year-old girl who gained global attention, was accused of the same act. Likewise, her village captured and tortured her for five days.

Positive Change

Papua New Guinea’s government has been upholding their decision to hold individuals accountable for sorcery killings. In 2017, The National Council agreed that eight men were to receive the death penalty for a sorcery-related killing. Further, the government raised $2.9 million for “sorcery awareness and education programs.”

There are even foundations, such as the PNG Tribal Foundation, dedicated to helping Papua New Guinea. The organizations fight to change the country’s societal views on women, engage in new health care programs, open women’s forums and help at-risk youth. The PNG Tribal Foundation actually helped create a plan to save 7-year-old Justice from her village.

Hopefully, change is on the rise when it comes to sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea and the associated gender-based violence. Papua New Guinea can begin to turn things around if they put into place more properly enforced laws.

Jessica LaVopa
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Papua New GuineaAlthough Papua New Guinea is a resource-rich area, almost 40% of its population lives in poverty. For women, Papua New Guinea is a dangerous place to live as the country is plagued by gendered violence and inequality and women’s rights are unprotected.

Women’s Rights in Papua New Guinea

Although the Papua New Guinea Constitution technically renders men and women equal, the traditional customs of the country and the patriarchal values that come with the vastly rural community make it difficult for this to actually implement itself within the country. Women’s rights in Papua New Guinea are shunted on a legislative and social level. In fact, not a single woman in Papua New Guinea is a member of Parliament. Moreover, women are not given the opportunity to be in positions of power due to a lack of access to education. In Papua New Guinea, only 18% of girls are enrolled in secondary school.

Gender-Based Violence in Papua New Guinea

Women in Papua New Guinea are subject to male domination and violence. It is estimated that Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates of gender violence in the world, for a country that is not a conflict zone. Moreover, the ruralness of Papua New Guinea leads to a lack of infrastructure and community programs to deter violence and provide sanctuary to women and girls who have experienced domestic violence. Women are often forced to return to their abusers due to the lack of these types of systems.

In 2015, Doctors Without Borders completed its Return to Abuser report in Papua New Guinea. Of the patients treated, 94% were female, with the most common form of violence being at the hands of domestic partners. From 2007 to 2015, Doctors Without Borders treated nearly 28,000 survivors of family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea. Doctors Without Borders shared that this abuse cycle continues because women and children lack the proper resources to leave their abusers, as many of them are dependant on the abuser and the abuse happens at home.

Intimate Partner Violence

In a United Nations multi-country study about Asia and the Pacific, researchers discovered alarming statistics about the pervasiveness of intimate partner violence. In Papua New Guinea, 80% of male participants self-reported perpetrating physical and/or sexual violence against their partner in their lifetime. Additionally, 83% of male participants also reported having committed emotionally abusive acts against their female partners in their lifetime. Sexual violence in Papua New Guinea is an epidemic too. In the same study, 62% of males also reported that they had perpetrated some form of rape against a woman or girl in their lifetime.

Pro Bono Australia

Despite these statistics, women in Papua New Guinea are supported by female-focused programs, such as Pro Bono Australia. Pro Bono Australia is working to aid women in Papua New Guinea to learn more about business and communication. Up to 85% of women in Papua New Guinea make their livelihoods off of the informal economy, through selling goods and services at markets. Through Pro Bono Australia, more than 600 market and street traders in Papua New Guinea who are mostly women, are members of the provincial vendors association. Through this association, vendors educate themselves about the Papua New Guinea market and the Constitution. Moreover, they now can communicate with governmental leaders and local leaders about the status of the informal economy. From this communication, these women have also been able to communicate with their leaders about other issues within their communities. As a result of this program, the provincial vendors association has begun to petition the government for better sanitation, safe spaces, better shelter and reliable water.

The Future for Women in Papua New Guinea

The communication between a coalition of mostly females and the governmental structure of Papua New Guinea will give voices to those who have been voiceless, bring attention to the status of women within society and hopefully make strides towards resolving issues such as gender-based violence and women’s rights in general. As a result of this measure, there is hope that women’s rights in Papua New Guinea will continue to improve and that the resources for gender-based violence will expand.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr