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

Homelessness in Papua New GuineaAmidst everything that is currently happening around the world, one of the biggest challenges that Papua New Guinea faces is the growth of youth which already represents 60% of the entire population. If the government does not start acting accordingly, then these young people could become vulnerable to delinquency and violence and end up increasing overall homelessness in Papua New Guinea.

Life of Homeless Children

According to the Life PNG Care Director Collin Pake, there were around 5,000 homeless children in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, in 2018. Many of them migrated from the rural areas of PNG looking for cleaning jobs as a way to help their families, while others received encouragement to go to the capital in search of their dreams. Additionally, others left home after experiencing abandonment from their families or ran away because of abuse or losing their family to illness.

Housing Crisis

But no matter their reasons, when coming to the capital they encounter many obstacles that do not let them prosper. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the employment per ratio population in Papua New Guinea has considerably dropped from 69% to 46%. It is not news that finding well-paid employment in the capital is hard. For that reason, many young people engage in informal jobs to subsist, as well as many live out in the streets due to the high rent.

According to a research by Professor Eugene Ezebilo, head of the property development program at the PNG National Research Institute, rent around the capital is too high for low-income families; often an apartment listing can go for around $300-600 USD a week, which represents rent stress for many families living in Port Moresby. In this way, many either become homeless, recur to ask for money from other family members or live in the outskirts of the city in informal houses.

How Life PNG Care Improves the Lives of Homeless Children

In an effort to reduce homelessness in Papua New Guinea, Pake and his wife started LIfe PNG Care 12 years ago. In 2018, it granted shelter, food and care to around 54 children. It even offers an education program that caters to 100 children.

Life PNG Care offers accommodation, education and advocates for child protection. They run three main education programs: the Strongim Pikinini program, Home School education program and Mobile Education program.

Furthermore, efforts of NCD Food Bank volunteers have resulted in the preparation of food bags for the homeless, street kids, people with disabilities and those who are experiencing food poverty in Port Moresby. This work has been especially important during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Yet, the problem still continues unless more results come from the government. Indeed, a way to not let the youth become an obstacle for the economy is supporting them in every way possible with better access to education, health and employment. This youth with guidance can become quite an exceptional asset for the economy and in ending homelessness in Papua New Guinea

Alannys Milano
Photo: Flickr

The common notion is that Papua New Guinea is composed of mostly of rural tribes and coconut trees; this is not true. In fact, the big island boasts an abundance of natural resources that include gold, copper, silver, gas and oil. Papua New Guinea’s resources have attracted many foreign companies to want to work in the region and exploit its resources, including the U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobile Corp. According to the World Bank, the country’s GDP has steadily increased from $3.5 billion in 2000 to $24.97 billion today. Yet, it seems that poverty in Papua New Guinea is still pervasive.

Lack of Basic Necessities

Poverty in Papua New Guinea is influenced by education, healthcare and infrastructure. Around “80% of Papua New Guinea’s people live in rural areas.” According to the World Bank, less than 40% of those living in these areas have electricity in their households whether on or off the grid. In rural areas, there is limited access to clean water and sanitation. In fact, only 8% of rural areas have proper sanitation. This is causing major illnesses and an almost 40% infant mortality rate.

The inability to receive adequate healthcare is another factor that perpetuates poverty in Papua New Guinea. Medical facilities often lack basic resources such as equipment, vaccines and even workers. Papua New Guinea has a population of 8 million people but “only 500 doctors, less than 4,000 nurses, and 5,000 hospital beds.” After 20 years, it has recently been facing the return of polio and HIV because of shortages of vaccines and proper treatment. In addition, the majority of people living in rural areas do not have access to resources because of the lack of developed roads. Therefore, they have to walk long distances to reach these facilities.

Furthermore, not all students in rural areas have access to village schools. Some need to walk miles to reach their schools. Most of these schools lack resources and teachers who often do not have the appropriate training. In 2018, there was a shortage of 10,000 teachers in schools, most of which were in rural areas.

Education and Health Setbacks and Initiatives

The Tuition-Free Free education policy launched in 2012. This policy was an attempt in providing free education to the population. However, the government has failed to deliver the funds to the schools, causing many to close down. To make matters worse, Papua New Guinea suffered from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in 2018. the earthquake. The quake and its subsequent aftershocks caused the death of around 31 people and the displacement of more than 30,000. This increased the overall poverty rate in Papua New Guinea.

Many healthcare facilities, schools and homes were destroyed. Providing better access to quality infrastructure is one of the ways in which poverty in Papua New Guinea can improve. The creation of more roads will increase the accessibility of healthcare and education. Improving the overall education, healthcare and transport infrastructure is one of the goals of WHO, UNICEF and Asian Development Bank. In 2017, ADB provided “$680 million for the Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Program”, which will connect roads and services to around three million people. In addition, it also committed almost $3 million for the Health Services Sector Development Program and the Rural Primary Health Services Delivery Project. Both projects aim to strengthen the health services in Papua New Guinea.

The Good News

James Marape, the new Prime Minister, is making efforts to fight poverty. The education system is undergoing its fourth reform with a focus on reaching and providing better resources to the young population. On top of that, partnership projects are working to support the health system. For example, the World Bank’s Emergency Tuberculosis project is a $15 million project that has already been making an impact since 2017.

The response to poverty in Papua New Guinea will depend solely on improving the health system and education of its population. This is especially imperative now since now more than half of the population is composed of young people. If the country’s opportunities and health are improved, the country can be led into prosperity.

Alannys Milano
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in Papua New Guinea
Nestled on the eastern coast of the Island of New Guinea, just north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is home to the third-largest rainforest, over 839 spoken languages and countless commodities like cocoa, coffee and palm oil. The country boasts a diverse topography ranging from coastal towns and river valleys to mountainous highlands. The tribal communities within its borders are as diverse as the landscapes they inhabit. However, there is a lack of clean water in Papua New Guinea.

Lack of Clean Water and Sanitation Facilities

Despite its ecological diversity and recent economic development, the country still lacks one of the most vital resources of all: clean water. The consequences of the clean water and improved sanitation facility shortage are both dire and systematic. This affects current populations and the future prosperity of the country. The country ranks second-lowest in access to safe water in the world because of its wide range of challenging geographies which make accessing some rural areas nearly impossible. According to the World Bank Systematic Diagnostic, only 13 percent of rural areas have access to improved facilities. In addition, only 33 percent of rural areas have access to clean water in Papua New Guinea.

Consequences

Rural areas experiencing substantially lower levels of access are more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses such as dysentery, cholera, malaria and diarrhea. These illnesses are leading causes of the high infant mortality rate, which according to UNICEF’s most recent estimate is about 38 deaths per 1,000 live births. According to 2016 estimates, the mortality rate of diarrheal diseases from exposure to unsafe WASH services is 16.3 per 100,000.

Even in less severe instances, these shortcomings cause malnutrition and stunted growth. It is also a cause of socioeconomic obstacles such as lack of education due to infection. Additionally, this leads to reduced social mobility for communities in rural areas.

Water Access

The prevailing means of getting water is to carry it up from the river in jerry cans. This can be time-consuming and often dangerous for the women and girls burdened with the task. Some larger institutions with adequate roofing such as the Madan Coffee Plantation, hospitals and various schools are equipped with rain catchment systems. Those institutions will occasionally allow surrounding communities to access the water reserves at certain times during the day. The dry season lasts from June through September, during which even these communities rely on the river to supply their water. Larger water systems may also include sky hydrants. The sky hydrants utilize piping to bring water up from the river before sending it through a filtration system. Then, it will send the water back down to the communities in need. These systems are far less common as they require substantial financial resources for initial investment and cost of maintenance.

Sanitation Facilities

Lack of improved sanitation facilities is even more widespread and arguably more detrimental to the health of Papua New Guineans since many will take to the river as an alternative. When the Borgen Project interviewed Laura Elizabeth Combee, a nurse who volunteers with Water Hands Hope, about the water conditions in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, she said that “You just see people living in bamboo walls and you see people carrying water from the side of the mountain. And maybe the water is fine, but what are the people on top of the mountain doing? Do you know? So, you don’t know what is contaminating the water.”

One of the most effective alternatives is ash and hay toilets or composting toilets. This catches excrement in two separate compartments before respectively covering them with either ash or hay. This process allows for more sanitary water sources and allows populations to use the remnants as a fertilizer for agricultural purposes. While highly efficient, the use of these is not widespread as there is a lack of information and knowhow.

Water Hands Hope

One of the organizations working to remedy the shortage of clean water in Papua New Guinea is Water Hands Hope. Founded in 2014, the mission of this small Honolulu-based NGO is to use a network of local communities and volunteers to develop and implement WASH infrastructure, deliver community-based educational services and provide medical assistance and clinical work.

Laura Elizabeth Combee uses her medical knowledge to promote, educate and report on water sanitation in rural areas of Papua New Guinea. Two regions in which she volunteers are the Wagi Wan community surrounding the Madan Coffee Plantation and the town of Kundiawa, both located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Participants in Water Hands Hope

During educational sessions, Water Hands Hope advises participant groups to boil water. This process would rid it of any parasites, viruses and protozoa. Additionally, it is the leading cause of waterborne illnesses.

Returning participants aware of the risks associated with unsterilized water grieve that without electricity, they often have to complete other more pressing tasks during the limited daytime, such as tending to the gardens for nourishment or working on the plantation. Lack of electricity is one of the main developmental obstacles that people in the country face.

Even if water systems are in place, there are plenty of hindrances that might deny people access to clean water in Papua New Guinea. Sometimes people have limited water access due to a lack of maintenance or a piece going missing and causing the whole system to be dysfunctional. Other times, the reasons might be because of culture or tradition.

Victoria-Maxine Haburka
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country known for its natural beauty, from Mount Wilhelm, the highest mountain in the country, to the cuscus, a marsupial that roams its rainforests. When it comes to its people, the government has made strides to improve life expectancy with life expectancy at birth totaling 64 years as of 2017 compared to only 39 years in 1960. Still, life expectancy in Papua New Guinea falls far below the global average of 72 years.

Here is a look at the factors that influence life expectancy in the country as well as efforts to further improve longevity in PNG.

Country Cooperation Strategy

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) in 2016 to improve health facilities and access to health care in a country that is mainly rural. The CCS aims to tackle many issues that are standing in the way of attaining sustainable health outcomes for PNG citizens:

  • User fees: User fees refer to the cost of medical services, drugs and entrance fees when seeing a health care provider. In countries where the majority of the population lives in poverty, user fees serve as barriers to health care services for those who may need it the most. One of the goals of the CCS is to eliminate these fees so that that the poor will have equal access to services that are essential for good health.
  • Vaccinations: Better access to vaccinations is another way the CCS plans to ensure that the life expectancy in Papua New Guinea increases. To that end, the country’s National Department of Health, in coordination with the WHO and UNICEF started a three-week campaign in June 2019 with the goal of vaccinating 1 million children against measles-rubella and polio. As Prime Minister Marape stressed in an address to parents at the launch: “We must make Papua New Guinea polio-free again.”
  • Newborn and Maternal Health: PNG has one of the highest mortality rates in the world. The main cause of mortality in mothers is exposure to infections and high blood pressure, which can interfere with kidney and liver function and also cause anemia. Infant mortality is mainly caused by infection and asphyxia. By providing more supervision during deliveries and by promoting community-based support through non-governmental organizations, the CCS plans to change this. Care for mothers and newborns will be addressed in the CCS with a focus on support for mothers before, during and after birth.
  • Health Care Providers: A lack of health care providers is a large problem affecting life expectancy in Papua New Guinea because there are not enough doctors to care for the sick people in the country. In 2009, there were only 330 doctors nationwide for a country of 8 million. The CCS plans to work with the government to increase access to education and create better facilities for learning for those who wish to pursue careers in the medical field, therefore increasing the number of doctors.

Other Factors Affecting Life Expectancy in PNG

  • Natural Disasters: PNG is in an area that is susceptible to natural disasters and the CCS plans on implementing new strategies for dealing with these kinds of events when they occur. After a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in PNG in 2018, the death toll was estimated to be 145 and about 270,000 people needed aid. Be it a volcanic eruption, earthquake or drought, the CCS wants to make sure that the people of PNG are ready for these disasters when they inevitably occur. More surveillance of these natural occurrences and emergency planning is necessary to make sure the country is secure in case of a natural disaster.

  • Tuberculosis: Protection against epidemics is another issue affecting the life expectancy in Papua New Guinea, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) being two of the most pressing. In 2017, there were 27,935 cases of tuberculosis. The WHO plans to investigate the causes of outbreaks by identifying TB early on and reducing the transmission of the disease. The WHO also plans to strengthen training programs that deal with treating conditions like these.

– Joslin Hughson and Kim Thelwell
Photo: Pixabay

Technology to promote literacy

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an independent state comprised of about 600 small islands, that also shares a land border with Indonesia. PNG uses technology to promote literacy in a number of ways. PNG broke off from Australia in 1975 but still receives substantial economic, geographical and educational gains from the country. However, the Australian government reports that in spite of their economic growth and middle-income country status (due to agricultural and mineral wealth), “PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 percent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 percent of people are extremely poor.”

The World Bank details that PNG also faces a “vexing” situation regarding their remoteness and number of languages. Communities in PNG are very closed off from one another and land travel is strenuous. PNG has 563 airports and air travel has proven to be the common way to get from one place to another. At over 800 languages, PNG is recognized as “the most linguistically diverse country in the world.” As a result of these two factors, PNG’s education system faces a variety of challenges. PNG was ranked 153 on the Human Development Index in 2017, and its adult literacy rate was reported to be 63.4 percent in 2015. Australian Aid and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) cooperated to produce The SMS Story research project, a way to use technology to promote literacy.

The goal of the SMS Story Research Project was to ascertain whether daily text message stories and lessons would improve the reading ability of children in grades 1 and 2 in Papua New Guinea. The text messages were sent to elementary school teachers in the Madang Province and Simbu Province using a free, open-source software program called Frontline SMS. The project was a controlled trial with two groups, one group of teachers received the message and the other did not. About 2500 students were evaluated before and after the trial. Using statistical testing, it was determined that the reading ability of the group who received text messages was higher than that of the group that did not.

It was found that the schools participating in the study had little to no reading books in the classroom and that students in groups without an SMS story were “twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading).” It seemed that many classrooms in PNG did not provide easy access to reading materials or proper reading lessons.

Amanda Watson, a researcher involved with the project stated that the SMS stories were helpful to the teachers as well. She says, “The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realize that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.” This suggests that before the trial, some of the teachers may not have promoted reading as much as they should have, either due to lack of access to materials or not realizing its importance.

Daniel A. Wagner, of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, detail the importance of using technology to promote literacy in countries with minimal access to education or educational materials in their paper, “Mobiles for Literacy in Developing Countries: An Effectiveness Framework”. He underlines the importance of promoting literacy through information and communications technologies (ICTs) in today’s world where there are “more connected mobile devices than people” and provides several examples of organizations that are working towards increasing literacy through ICTs.

The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) is run in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. They aim to “improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons” created by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI). They provide access to educational materials and issue students with “mother-tongue resources” in regions where computer sources or books are mostly in English. Comparably, Ustad Mobile is an application in Afghanistan that runs offline on phones. They center around instructing reading comprehension, listening, and numeracy. Teachers and students can download and share lessons; the app also includes exercises, videos and interactive quizzes in order to “mobilize education for all”.

BBC Janala is another project using technology to promote literacy in Bangladesh. It is a multi-platform service and can be accessed through TV, internet, print and mobile phones. BBC Janala concentrates on teaching English through three-minute audio lessons, quizzes, TV shows, newspapers, textbooks and CDs.

Illiteracy is an issue in Papua New Guinea; most likely due to the lack of reading materials and importance placed on literacy. However projects like, “The SMS Story” are all over the world and are working towards using technology to promote literacy one step at a time.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea

Across the globe, access to adequate healthcare appears to be of paramount concern for both governmental and non-governmental organizations. Not only does providing health services to underserved and under-represented populations increase general wellbeing and happiness, it has also proven to be beneficial for the economy, per the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Pushing for Vaccinations

In February, the southeast Asian nation of Papua New Guinea declared 2019 as “The Year of Immunization,” in an effort to stave off preventable diseases and promote healthier lifestyles. This push to increase vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea was further intensified following several polio outbreaks across the country in Summer and late 2018 as well as in early 2019, and outbreaks of measles in 2014 and 2015 with 2,000 total confirmed cases and over 350 deaths. This recent resurgence in the near-eradicated virus can be attributed to sub-optimal living conditions and lack of wide-spread, generalized immunization.

Furthermore, the efforts to increase vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea would hopefully spur the economy, lifting more citizens out of poverty (as of 2002, 37 percent of New Guinea’s population lived below the global poverty line – approximately 2.5 million people), though this economic boost would act primarily as an added bonus to preventing polio, rubella and measles.

Widescale immunization quickly became a top priority for the government and National Department of Health of Papua New Guinea. While initially a daunting task, the southeast Asian nation partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other non-profit organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in order to better coordinate these immunization campaigns.

According to UNICEF, one of the polio campaigns sought to immunize over three million children up to the age of 15-years-old. As of late July 2019, these campaigns have been deemed as successful by the government, significantly increasing vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea. Since February, Papua New Guinea’s National Department of Health, along with the WHO, and UNICEF have led eight successful immunization campaigns, vaccinating approximately 1.28 million children under the age of five for polio, in addition to just over one million children of the same age for rubella and measles.

Cooperation Among Organizations

The success of these campaigns can be traced to swift action and cooperation between the primarily players. The WHO estimates that over 12,000 workers (from vaccination specialists, mobilizers and surveillance officers) helped to orchestrate these movements across the country – movements, which according to The Papua New Guinea National Department of Health, have had a 95 percent success rate.

While these increased vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea are positive signs for the future of the country’s health promotion and disease prevention, it is important to note that Papua New Guinea was declared as polio free in 2000 and went 18 years without a confirmed case of polio. It is essential that Papua New Guinea continue these immunization campaigns in order to guarantee healthier lifestyles for the rest of 2019 and into the future.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Papua New Guinea

With hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the nation is made up of predominantly rural villages with their own languages. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Papua New Guinea gives an insight into what life in these communities is like.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Papua New Guinea

  1. Papua New Guinea’s vast natural resources are being threatened. While 80 percent of Papua New Guinea is covered in forest, the resources are predicted to be used up in a generation, possibly just a decade. Home to what conservationists call “the last rainforest,” Papua New Guinea is home to massive resources loggers are rushing to exploit due to it being one of the last nations to legally permit the exportation of raw logs. As Vincent Mutumuto, a local of rural Papua New Guinea told the Gazette, the foreign logging is destroying many tiny farms such as his banana tree and watermelon farm, which brings in his family of 16’s only income. While loggers are thriving on the nation’s resources, Papuans and the economy of their nation are suffering from it.
  2. Papua New Guinea has failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. With an average life expectancy of 62.9 years, the nation is ranked 157 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index. Healthcare, water and sanitation, civil unrest and education are all behind this statistic. The nation is one of only a handful to not reach these goals.
  3. Tuberculosis incidences are highest in the region. Humid air and weak immune systems due to malnutrition allow the disease to stay strong. While much of the world sees tuberculosis as a thing of the past, it remains one of the most infectious killers in Papua New Guinea. The region of Daru Island in the country has been called by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “global hotspot” for drug-resistant tuberculosis. The World Bank has contributed $15 million in the form of aid in screenings and programs diagnosing and treating the disease. Results of this multi-nation effort have proved positive thus far, and the programs are seeing expansion.
  4. Vaccinations aren’t accessible. For the population of 8.25 million, vaccinations must be helicoptered into the remote areas many locals live, if they are available at all. The World Health Organization has been sending aid to the authority on vaccinations in Papua New Guinea, the 1981-born Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in the form of cleaner injections, safer waste disposal, accessible screening processes and setting up effective domestic production. Additionally, the WHO sent a score of important immunizations, such as those for maternal and neonatal tetanus, measles and hepatitis B.
  5. Water is a luxury. Many towns across Papua New Guinea have no central water supply system. Children must travel long distances to lug jugs back to their families. According to data from the World Bank, Papua New Guinea’s increase in accessible drinking water increased by an insignificant six percent while its overall sanitation index decreased by one percent, and that overall Papua New Guinea has the lowest water and sanitation access indicators among the 15 developing Pacific Island nations. Furthermore, the lack of water is impacting children’s education. As one teacher explained to World Bank, “I have seen that the problem of water is a major problem that affects many of our students in learning especially during the dry season.” Students are sent home early (around 12 p.m.) in order to help their parents gather water. During the dry season, students often miss school for days at a time.
  6. Violence is a side effect of poverty. Physical and sexual abuse are common in Papua New Guinea, and many occurrences committed by the police themselves. According to Human Rights Watch, police beat 74 men and slashed their ankles after a street brawl in the capital of Port Moresby this past May.
  7. Papua New Guinea is living in the dark. Only 20 percent of the nation’s population had access to electricity as of 2017. While PNG Power Ltd, the company running the nation’s electricity, is working with rural communities to provide power, development is still necessary.
  8. Businesses are improving. Rural wellbeing is being raised by a ‘bottom-up’ approach. This entails private sector involvement in isolated villages, focusing on improving family businesses such as local farms where the majority of citizens make their livelihood. This is not only generating entrepreneurship but also improving living conditions for the communities. Roberta Morlin is leading the trend of young entrepreneurs in Papua New Guinea. She said, “When I first started in 2015, I had 30 different ideas and I had to validate (reduce) those ideas down to 15. I had to further validate over the next 15 months down to four, which I am currently working on.”
  9. Papua New Guinea is experiencing economic growth. With abundant national reserves and improving family businesses, Papua New Guinea has experienced 14 years in a row of positive GDP growth. Between 2003 and 2015, the nation’s economy grew and proved that with the right involvement the country can develop further.
  10. People are migrating to Papua New Guinea. A new trend for Australians to move to the country is bringing Papua New Guinea hope. According to People Connexion, the decision is due to the slower pace of living and sense of community present there. This new trend to move and work in Papua New Guinea could hopefully greatly boost their economy.

As Papua New Guinea strives to meet future Millennium Development Goals, there must be an improvement in the economy, education and healthcare. Attention must be focused on locals, preserving natural resources, and helping improve productivity within small businesses in order to improve overall living conditions in Papua New Guinea.

– Maura Byrne
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Girls' Education in Papua New Guinea

While primary school enrollment rates in Papua New Guinea are low for girls and boys, there is a significant disparity between the two. Several factors contribute to the worse girls’ education in Papua New Guinea, some of which governments and organizations are working to change.

Factors Contributing to Gender Inequality

  • Political Factors – Women’s social status in Papua New Guinea is below men’s, limiting female positions of leadership. To combat some of this inequality, the country attempted to create legislation that would reserve seats for women, but it was defeated in parliament. As a result of this, initiatives to promote gender equality often have difficulty in receiving funding.
  • Economic Factors – School fees dissuade parents from enrolling their daughters, as they feel it is more beneficial to enroll their sons. Although, many boys do not receive an education as well: about 64 percent of boys and 57 percent of girls attend primary school. Hunger also contributes, as starving students are less likely to attend school. In urban areas, food shortages are common because of less gardening land. Malnourished children often develop illnesses, also causing them to miss school. Additionally, a lack of appropriate water and sanitation facilities negatively impacts girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They are often not private enough, and sometimes there isn’t even running water. Once girls reach puberty, they often leave school because they cannot maintain menstrual hygiene at school.
  • Social and Cultural Factors – Girls do not enroll in school because they are required to take care of their younger siblings while their parents work. Child marriage also contributes to poor girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. Married girls do not continue to attend school, and approximately 22 percent of girls in Papua New Guinea get married before the age of 18.

Safety is another serious concern for girls. Gender-based violence and harassment are prevalent in schools. Just under 50 percent of girls reported feeling safe at school, with 31 percent feeling unsafe. These feelings were strongest near toilets, sports fields and school gates, with only 2 percent of girls feeling safe around toilets.

Girls are harassed by male students and teachers, thereby afraid of physical and sexual assault. The high number of male teachers contributes to low enrollment rates, with male teachers out-numbering female teachers in primary schools. While the number of female teachers doubled between 2002 and 2012, there is still a significant lack of them.

Efforts to Decrease Gender Inequality in Education

World Vision launched a project targeting girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They established community learning centers (CLCs), which provide early childhood care for girls and boys between three and six. Education improvement classes for children under 14 are also offered. The goal is to make it easier for children to succeed in school, as well as encourage parents to take a more active role in the children’s education. Between 2014 and 2017, approximately 6000 children attended classes at CLCs and 4o00 people were involved in community awareness efforts. After attending CLCs, 90 percent of children were prepared to begin primary school, significantly higher than the baseline of 80 percent.

The National Education Plan (NEP), developed in 2015, is also aiming to improve education, with a focus on gender equality. In their most recent $7.4 million grant, their goal is to better student achievement in math and science by improving pre-service and in-service teacher education, especially for women, and increasing access to textbooks.

Notable Progress

Due to these projects being implemented, some advancements have been made. A study by the National Research Institute found that the number of girls enrolled in school increased by almost 150 percent between 2001 and 2012. Additionally, primary school completion rates for girls rose by approximately 5 percent between 2014 and 2016.

While there is still a long way to go, Papua New Guinea has begun to decrease the differences between male and female education.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr