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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

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a small nation located in Oceania, a region near the South Pacific Ocean. It is an archipelago nation made up of approximately 80 islands and is best known for its touristy capital, Port Vila. Much like many developing nations, issues are living conditions are not black and white. Instead, they are rife with complexity and nuance. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu

  1. First on the list of top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu is that it is comprised of more than 80 islands, many being volcanic islands, covering more than 1,300 kilometers.  Vanuatu’s population is estimated to be 299,882 people. Most of the islands are not close in proximity, and dangerous waters and unpredictable weather make travel between the islands difficult. This creates problems with securing access to vital places, such as hospitals, especially for people who do not live in Port Vila. Vanuatu’s vast geography also hinders government delivery services because access to the smaller islands is limited. Remote villages are the primary standard of living as citizens have discovered the best habitable locations and resources in this volcanic nation.
  2. Homes on the islands of Vanuatu are primarily made of branches, grass and leaves woven together to provide good protection from frequent heavy rains, but they can be unstable in more severe weather conditions.  Certain natural disasters, such as tornadoes, can cause these homes to be stripped away completely. This especially became clear after Cyclone Pam hit the Vanuatu islands in 2015. 90 percent of Vanuatu’s buildings were destroyed, including many homes.  Many people were left homeless after this natural disaster hit. Many of the islands are still in the process of rebuilding after the effects of Cyclone Pam.
  3. The economy is agriculture-based.  Therefore, most citizens of Vanuatu earn their living through means such as small scale farming. Agriculture is Vanuatu’s biggest industry, and 75 percent of its population depends on it for a living.  The domestic sales of agricultural products are not as strong as exportation sales. When Cyclone Pam hit the region in 2015, approximately 64.1 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP was heavily impacted since most of its crops were damaged or destroyed from the cyclone.
  4. The beef industry is one of the most popular and profitable industries in Vanuatu.   In fact, Vanuatu is the only Pacific country capable of exporting beef. The GDP percentage of animals is only six percent.  While beef is not the main meat consumption product in Vanuatu; pork is, it is the most well-known and lucrative agricultural item exported from the small country.
  5. Since rainwater and freshwater sources are the basis of survival on these islands, the nation makes maintaining reliable and clean water a priority. However, clean water is not always easy to access. For example, Tanna is one of the most inhabited islands of Vanuatu, but it has trouble getting and sustaining clean water. Recently, a pilot project was developed that converts sunlight, air and rainwater into freshwater that is drinkable. ADB and Zero Mass Water created and implemented the solution by installing 20 solar panels with safe drinking-water technology.  Each solar panel provides three to five liters for a total of approximately 100 liters of clean water each day. Vanuatu citizens with no direct access to a clean water supply system are being aided by the implementation of this project.
  6. In March 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu hard. Eleven people were killed, and the cyclone caused major damage to homes and facilities such as hospitals, schools, etc. The damage caused by this cyclone showed Vanuatu’s fragility when it comes to natural disasters. Multiple aid agencies, especially from New Zealand and Australia, were quick to donate money to Vanuatu in order to help them recover from the destruction. Since then, Vanuatu has continued to receive disaster aid funds.
  7. Australia is a major economic partner of Vanuatu and has recently donated around $66.2 million for developmental assistance. With Australia as it’s biggest financial partner, Vanuatu has become more financially stable. Australia also provides plenty of tourism (which is one of Vanuatu’s biggest markets). In addition, in 2016, Australia committed to a support program to help the residents of Vanuatu handle issues associated with climate change. Australia pledged 300 million dollars over four years to the Pacific region to respond to and prepare for natural disasters and climate change.
  8. The Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disaster has recently launched an initiative that aims to give Vanuatu 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. This plan is known as the Nationally Determined Contribution. Vanuatu is hoping that this initiative will be the first step in mitigating climate change within its own land.
  9. Education faces limitations in Vanuatu because schooling is not mandatory.  Only 60 percent of children graduate to secondary school. School is taught in either English or French. The literacy rate is only 64 percent, but most of the literate citizens are under age 35. In remote island locales, schools can be temporary structures built from wood and leaves and are affected by storms and weather conditions. Since education has not experienced major improvements, organizations such as the Vanuatu Education Support Program was created in 2012 to better the education system. It aims to provide support for the Ministry of Education and Training’s corporate plan and the Vanuatu Education Sector Strategy. One of the solutions includes “improving literacy and numeracy from kindergarten to year 3.”
  10. The health care system in the Vanuatu islands suffers from a lack of facilities and qualified staff.  There are five public hospitals and one private hospital for the 80 plus islands. Two are on the modernized islands of Port Vila and Luganville. The doctor to patient ratio is 8/10,000. If someone is in dire condition, they often are flown to other countries such as Australia or New Zealand which can make an emergency situation more complicated and dangerous.  All pharmaceuticals are imported from other countries.

This concludes the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu. This archipelagic nation is very independent and allows its citizens to choose how they want to live, but, due to the structure of a nation of small islands, this way of life comes with setbacks.  The citizens of Vanuatu have seen some small improvements in their way of life, and with the positive aspects of this country, improvements can continue with the right steps.

Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty in New Zealand
Unlike other countries, New Zealand does not use an official poverty line. Generally speaking, the understanding is that with an income level set at 60% of median household disposable income after housing costs, it is reasonable to expect that this will prevent the worst effects of poverty.

It is also generally understood that poverty in New Zealand can entail hunger and food insecurity, poor health outcomes, reduced life expectancy, debt and poor housing. One in seven households in New Zealand experiences poverty, which includes about 230,000 children overall.

Māori and other Pacific peoples represent the majority of people living in persistent poverty in New Zealand, along with beneficiaries and single parents. Welfare benefits in New Zealand are not enough for someone to live on, much less with dignity.

Emergency assistance resources are stretched, and housing assistance is not always adequate. The gap between the rich and the poor is still large and not shrinking anytime soon.

One of the prevailing myths in New Zealand and other places is that those on welfare or other benefits have an inherent lazy character and lack a work ethic. While unemployment remains high, many jobs available to those on benefits are insecure and do not pay as well as full-time permanent jobs. Furthermore, those on benefits often deal with outside factors, like health issues and disabilities, that make working a job difficult.

The approximately 230,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand may add economic and social cost to New Zealand society later on because their problems were not addressed. Many are at risk for further health problems both physical and mental and have a higher risk of having to be involved in the justice system. Currently, this costs $2 billion or so every year.

Child poverty in New Zealand remains the most pressing issue of social justice. However, if there are people willing to help, there is still reason for hope.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Pixabay


As of 2016, Fiji, a country in Oceania, consists of more than 300 islands and is home to more than 915,000 people. Hunger in Fiji is one of the nation’s leading problems, posing a threat to the large population. Here are five facts about hunger in Fiji.

Hunger in Fiji

  1. According to Half United, an organization committed to fighting hunger in many countries, more than 250,000 people live in poverty. This number equates to one in every four people struggling to put food on the table.
  2. More than 50 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water, and even fewer have access to adequate sanitation. Conditions have advanced, as more than 95 percent of the total population has reportedly experienced improved drinking water sources and more than 91 percent of the total population has seen improved sanitation facility access.
  3. The strongest tropical cyclone hit Fiji in February 2016, killing 43 people and causing a national emergency. The cyclone resulted in the washing away of crops and left thousands of residents homeless. With such detrimental effects, Cyclone Winston has contributed significantly to hunger in Fiji.
  4. According to a UNICEF report, under-five malnutrition exists as an “indicator of poverty and hunger.” The rate of undernourished children in Fiji has declined from 15 percent in 1980 to six percent in 2009. Reducing the prevalence of under-five malnutrition remains a priority of the government in order to eradicate poverty and hunger in Fiji.
  5. Young girls are nearly twice as likely to be stunted as boys as a consequence of long-term insufficient nutrient intake. Stunting is defined as low height for age and often results in delayed motor development, impaired cognitive function and poor school performance.

Poverty and hunger continue to affect the people of Fiji, but fortunately, organizations such as The World Food Programme (WFP) and Half United provide vulnerable families with the necessary assistance and resources to get back on their feet.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr