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

Hunger in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a country in the southwestern Pacific. Often thought of for its beautiful beaches, active volcanoes and coral reefs, Papua New Guinea has an incredibly diverse culture. The country is home to many different tribal groups and is the most linguistically diverse country in the world, with more than 800 indigenous languages. However, while the island nation has beautiful scenery and rich culture, hunger continues to be a prevalent issue. Here are five facts about hunger in Papua New Guinea.

5 Facts About Hunger in Papua New Guinea

  1. Nearly 50% of children in Papua New Guinea are malnourished. As of 2018, almost half of the children in Papua New Guinea suffered from chronic malnutrition. This is much higher than the global average and causes a large percentage of hospital deaths for children under five. Malnutrition can have lasting effects on children, leading to health complications in their adult life.
  2. Data gathered on food insecurity in Papua New Guinea is scarce. Collecting data on the nourishment of those in Papua New Guinea is difficult, and limited data leads not only to limited reporting but also to limited decision making. Despite knowing that many families living in rural, low-income communities are food insecure, it is difficult for the government to create effective policy changes without accurate statistics.
  3. Volatile weather causes droughts and increases food insecurity. Papua New Guinea faces unpredictable climate catastrophes, including active volcanos and inconsistent rainfall. Since 2015, Papua New Guinea has been affected by the climate phenomenon El Niño, which caused a disruption in weather patterns and a drastic decrease in rainfall in the region. Reduced rainfall led to issues producing crops and livestock and resulted in a severe drought in the region. Food availability was already low in many regions and the drought led to even more hunger in Papua New Guinea. In addition to contributing to food insecurity, the reduced rainfall also led to decreased access to clean water. As a result, many families turned to alternative water sources that present further health issues, such as dysentery and typhoid.
  4. Papua New Guinea is committed to achieving a zero-hunger world by 2030. In 2018, the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock in Papua New Guinea, Hon Benny Allen, committed himself and his country to achieving food security for all of Papua New Guinea. Allen created a strategy that includes placing agricultural issues at the forefront of the country’s focus. He promised to make the people the focus of these initiatives by creating sustainable food systems and improved climate disaster preparedness.
  5. Papua New Guinea created a National Food Security Policy. The National Food Security Policy 2018-2027 outlines a concrete plan to address food insecurity in the nation. The policy states that food security is a basic human right and lays out five priority strategic action areas. These strategic areas include increased productivity and efficiency in food staple production, stability in supply systems, enhanced nutrient content in foods for consumption by vulnerable households, female empowerment in agriculture, and strengthened governing, coordination, monitoring and communication.

While Hunger in Papua New Guinea is faced by many in the island nation, the country is moving toward a more sustainable and equitable future. Through the National Food Security Policy and commitment to zero-hunger, Papua New Guinea aims to ensure every citizen has access to food.

– Jazmin Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Sorcery Killings in Papua New GuineaIn modern times, science can explain the causes of sickness and death. However, it is not difficult to find areas of the world in which superstitions can overpower fact, sometimes with disastrous consequences. One prime example is the rise of sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea. Many families have suffered both physically and psychologically from accusations of sorcery and subsequent torture. Furthermore, some communities have even displaced people from their homes and murdered innocent victims.

In many cases, young women and occasionally even children become scapegoats for issues plaguing the entire community, such as AIDS. Members of the community accuse these women of sanguma, the local term for sorcery. They then torture them into admitting their crimes in a frightening scenario resembling the Salem Witch Trials. Ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea is necessary to save these lives.

Cultural Perspectives on Sorcery

There are several factors as to why many cases of sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea have not yet been resolved by the authorities. Many communities target suspected sorcerers with supposedly good intentions: the hope of protecting friends and family from becoming victims of the supposed sorcerer. In many cases, members of the community are afraid to report crimes that they have witnessed due to fears of community backlash.

As such, the proper authorities never address dozens of cases of sorcery killings, as individuals who could potentially report the issue are too frightened to come forward. Whistleblowers can ironically experience accusations of conspiring with or supporting sorcerers. Due to threats and intimidation, families are afraid of possible torture or death if they attempt to report a killing. Not to mention that geographic limitations and limited police presence in these areas mean that there are not always means to make a report. This makes ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea an exceptionally tall order.

Declining Health, Increasing Blame

The idea in Papua New Guinea that sanguma can manifest itself in individuals, granting them strange powers, is not new. It used to be a benign belief in the past. However, it is only more recently that communities started to seek out witches and sorcerers to remove them from society. Several key factors have contributed to the issue of sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea. Through the spread of Western culture, communities in the country have altered their diets and lifestyle choices to match the trends of countries like the United States. However, an unfortunate side effect of these changes is that they have an increased risk of various health issues and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and HIV/AIDS. As the general health of a community decreases, individuals often inflict violence on scapegoats as a means of coping with grief and stress.

The Role of Technology

Sorcery-related murders of men are also connected to climbing land prices related to industrialization. New technology and improved land have caused some individuals to target landowners and their families, revealing that personal gain also plays a part in this tragedy.

In addition, social media has had an adverse effect. Western nations are all too aware of how an endless stream of news articles and strong claims can lead to arguments and hate-filled polarization. But the sudden proliferation of smartphones and social media platforms like Facebook is even more unsettling across the developing world, where tech neophytes are less discerning consumers. In Papua New Guinea, accusations against suspected witches spread rapidly thanks to new technology. In one case, a woman accused of sorcery but relocated to a remote community suffered mutilation after recognition from viral Facebook posts. Ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea requires acknowledging the role of technology in spreading accusations.

Hope for Change

However, there is hope in an initiative called the Sorcery Accusation Related Violence National Action Plan (SARVNAP), which was created in 2013 following the execution of a 20-year-old mother named Leniata. An organization of human rights activists and church leaders, SARVNAP emphasizes a holistic approach to addressing sanguma. It depends on aid from Australia to fund these initiatives to end violence and assist victims. The program holds promise, but it must achieve many goals to make a difference, including securing more political roles for women and improving health care, education and employment. With funding and awareness, ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea is possible.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Pixabay

Period Poverty in Papua New Guinea
People in Papua New Guinea (PNG) still see the words menstruation or period as taboo. Yet, people are fighting to get the word out that a period is not something to be ashamed of and that addressing period poverty in Papua New Guinea should be a priority.

The Situation in Papua New Guinea

According to 2017 research from the Burnet Institute, an Australian medical research organization, many adolescents girls in PNG are not prepared to have their period and do not have the necessary knowledge about menstruation. As a result, findings have determined that the majority of them feel ashamed about it.

Menstruation is an important time for every adolescent girl. Educating about it helps them deal with the anxiety and anticipation that comes after, especially as understanding menstruation is important in identifying any abnormalities regarding health.

According to a Nationwide Children’s hospital blog article, “Young women should also be educated on what types of menstrual products exist and how to use menstrual products appropriately.” However, many adolescents and women in PNG do not have access to menstrual products or even proper sanitation facilities leading to period poverty and gender inequality.

Taboos About Periods in PNG

Period poverty in Papua New Guinea has been happening for many years now. From a young age, people in PNG have been teaching women, who comprise around 48% of the population, that period blood is “dirty” and “unhealthy.” In rural communities in PNG, the taboo of periods goes as far as women being separated from men and their families during menstruation because their community believes that it will bring bad luck to men and boys. In addition, women cannot even cook or go near food during menstruation because others perceive them as “unclean.”

Additionally, education about menstruation often depends on how comfortable teachers are about the subject. In many cases, girls often feel humiliated by the way teachers treat and teach the subject of menstruation, often reinforcing cultural beliefs.

Lack of Sanitation Facilities

Furthermore, the lack of sanitary places and access to menstrual products, especially in rural areas, only contributes to unsafe practices of cleaning and impacts the lives of many girls and women. Indeed, the majority of them stop going to school or work during their periods because of the fear of experiencing ridicule from their male peers.

Women and girls who live in rural areas also frequently have access to poor quality menstrual products if they can afford them at all. They often use pieces of cloth or second-hand products that can lead to “rashes, discomfort and leakage, which can cause pain and further perpetuate the cycle of shame.”

Implementation of WASH Facilities

The report from the Burnet Institute highlights some of the solutions to overcome and facilitate the management of menstruation to end period poverty and gender inequality in PNG.

One particular solution is the increment of WASH facilities in schools and workplaces. Often, they are not adequate for girls and women to use while on their periods. Some of the problems include a lack of privacy while using toilets and showers, and a deficiency of well-functioning toilets and soap and water for handwashing and personal hygiene.

The good news is that there are many organizations working toward the proper implementation of menstrual hygiene management in PNG. Papua New Guinea’s government, UNICEF and other partner organizations (World Vision, Oxfam and Infra Tech) have been working together since 2016 to carry out a five-year plan to improve water and sanitation in the four districts of PNG including Nawaeb in Morobe, Goroka in the Eastern Highlands, Hagen Central in Western Highlands and Central Bougainville District in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. The program will significantly improve the quality of life of more than 70,000 people and expectations have determined that it will reach completion by 2021.

Moon Sick Care Bags

Furthermore, since 2017, women in PNG have been receiving Moon Sick Care Bags from women in Queens Island. The bag includes personal underwear, soap, menstrual products, information about the menstrual cycle and even a small bag where they can put their soiled pads. Yolonde Entsch, coordinator and partner of the program, said that “Our Moon Sick Care Bags provide everything a woman or girl needs to manage menstruation with dignity and confidence.”

With time and work, women and girls in PNG will receive the necessary facilities to properly manage their menstruation with dignity, and hopefully, period poverty in Papua New Guinea will no longer prevent women and girls from living their lives.

– Alannys Milano
Photo: Flickr