Poverty in Papua New Guinea
The common notion is that Papua New Guinea includes mostly rural tribes and coconut trees but this is not true. In fact, the large 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

Education, health care and infrastructure influence poverty in Papua New Guinea. 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. Rural areas have 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 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 health care facilities, schools and homes underwent destruction. 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 health care and education. Improving the overall education, health care and transport infrastructure is one of the goals of WHO, UNICEF and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). 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 to 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 improve, the country can move into prosperity.

Alannys Milano
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