Common Diseases in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is an island nation situated in the Pacific, north of Australia. As of 2010, 88 percent of the roughly eight million people living in Papua New Guinea live in rural areas. Despite the country’s plentiful natural resources, many people lack access to basic services such as roads, electricity and healthcare.

Because of the alarming scarcity of resources and support, the most common diseases in Papua New Guinea can disproportionately harm the country’s incredibly diverse populace.

Without access to basic infrastructure, many people in Papua New Guinea do not have access to clean food or water. This puts people at risk of contracting diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid or cholera. Additionally, parasitic insects native to Papua New Guinea’s tropical climate can spread malaria and Japanese encephalitis, a disease which can cause fever, vomiting, brain swelling or even death.

These common diseases in Papua New Guinea are preventable and treatable with adequate vaccinations, medicine and access to clean food and water. Unfortunately, the almost entirely rural population of Papua New Guinea does not have access to any of these measures.

In addition to these diseases, Papua New Guinea struggles with an ongoing epidemic of HIV/AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) is currently working with other U.S. agencies to provide advice and technical support to Papua New Guinea to help manage this outbreak.

Furthermore, Papua New Guinea has experienced an outbreak of the Zika virus, a disease which can cause birth defects. Like malaria, this serious ailment is spread by mosquitoes. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been monitoring the situation in Papua New Guinea and ensuring that the virus does not become a larger threat to surrounding regions since March of 2016.

Overall, common diseases in Papua New Guinea are generally basic, preventable and treatable diseases that are common in other lower-middle and low-income countries around the world. However, the significant lack of development and infrastructure, as well as the country’s primarily rural population, make it difficult to manage these diseases. Worse still, diseases such as HIV/AIDS and the Zika virus also have a major impact on the country.

In order for Papua New Guinea to more effectively fight disease, the country needs to build up its infrastructure and services. If Papua New Guinea can receive strong international support in growing its economy, it may be able to develop the infrastructure and provisions it needs to save lives.

Isidro Rafael Santa Maria

Photo: Flickr