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

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

Poverty Reduction in Papua New Guinea
Poverty in Papua New Guinea is characterized by many social, economic and geographical inequalities, but there is an abundance of organizations willing to help bring the country to a flourishing state. Here are the issues, solutions and organizations involved in poverty reduction in Papua New Guinea.

Poverty Reduction in Papua New Guinea

Since the 1990s, poverty in Papua New Guinea has been on the rise. With about 6.5 million people living in the country, more than 37 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.

According to UNDP, seventy-five percent of the population is dependent on agriculture. A large portion of the population lives in rural areas, where agriculture is the main source of income. Citizens living in rural communities don’t have access to electricity and adequate healthcare facilities.

UNDP supports the government in implementing new strategies with reducing poverty in Papua New Guinea as well as promotes equality among women and men. The organization is working towards creating a financial sector in the country to make more services affordable to citizens.


The healthcare system in Papua New Guinea has been struggling in the past few decades to offer quality health services. The rugged terrain, landscape of the country and lack of transportation systems makes it difficult for citizens living in rural areas to get to healthcare services in the urban areas. Malnutrition is one of the main reasons for infant mortality, which reached 57 deaths per 1000 live births.

Diseases also run high throughout the country and clean water is difficult to obtain. In fact, 4.8 million citizens do not have access to clean water in Papua New Guinea, and over 200 children under the age of five die from diarrhoeal diseases. Other disease such as HIV/AIDS and malaria are also top causes of death in the country.

Caritas is an organization that helps bring education, healthcare and community empowerment to people living in poverty in Papua New Guinea. In 2011, Caritas implemented a program that made sure that people living in remote or rural areas of the country have access to healthcare facilities that test for many diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. Caritas also started a Life Skills program to help young adults struggling with HIV/AIDS and ex-prisoners that need a new start in life.

Gender Inequality

Papua New Guinea is ranked on the top ten list of countries with the most gender inequality. Women have unequal access to healthcare and education and are very underrepresented in government. There is also many violent crimes against women and children in the country, and sex trafficking is common.

Oxfam Australia strives for equality amongst men and women in Papua New Guinea by raising awareness about violent crimes against women to hopefully stop violence before it occurs. OxFam is supported by the Australian government through many provided programs such as Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), which offers quality support to survivors of crime in the country.

Not only do they help with crime victims, OxFam also provides clean water and hygiene services to people living in poverty in Papua New Guinea.

Natural Disasters

The country is also affected by natural disasters that ruin food crops and infrastructure. In fact, about four million people were affected by natural disasters in Papua New Guinea from the years 1997 to 2010.

CARE is a nonprofit organization that has worked since 1989 to help eradicate poverty in Papua New Guinea. The organization responds directly to emergency situations such as natural disasters and droughts. They bring water, hygiene and sanitary services to areas that need it the most. CARE also assists with improving agricultural practices, education and disease prevention.

Missionaries and the Prospect of Prosperity

Aside from the many non-profit organizations focused on poverty reduction in Papua New Guinea, missionaries also work hard to bring their services to the country. Danny Markell of Douglasville, Georgia went on a mission trip with a traveling preacher to Papua New Guinea. Markell and the rest of the team traveled to Port Moresby and urban cities surrounding the capital to pass out food, water and other basic necessities.

“We gave out a lot of Bibles and coloring books for the kids,” Markell said. “We also helped out at two young camps.” Missionaries like Markell travel to the country every year to give citizens supplies, education and healthcare to make their lives a little bit easier.

Through their efforts and the work of the many organizations that provide assistance, there could be hope for the people living in poverty in Papua New Guinea.

– McKenzie Hamby

Photo: Flickr