Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea

Over 80% of PNG's population live in rural areas, with limited access to basic services and facilities

Over 80% of PNG's population live in rural areas, with limited access to basic services and facilities

Papua New Guinea, our nearest neighbour, faces many challenges in overcoming poverty.

More than 80% of the population live in rural areas, with limited access to health centres, education and agricultural services.

Women living in rural PNG suffer from poverty even more. They work long hours but are rarely involved in decision-making and have little control over the money they earn or the land they farm. Almost two thirds of them are also victims of violence.

CARE has been working in PNG since 1989. We focus on creating a more equal world for the women and girls there through helping them get health services, health information and farming skills. We support them to be better prepared for disasters and to take part in local decision-making. We also work with communities and families so they take up more positive attitudes and behaviour towards women.

Fast Facts

Population: 6.79 million
Life expectancy: 67.2 years (65 years male, 69.5 years female)
Infant mortality: 37.4 deaths/1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality*: 57 deaths/1,000 live births
Maternal mortality: 215 deaths/100,000 live births
Adult literacy rate: 64.2% (65.6% male, 62.8% female)
Access to improved drinking water: 40% (88% urban, 32.8% rural)
Access to improved sanitation: 18.9% (56.4% urban, 13.3% rural)
Labour force participation rate^: 74% male, 70% female
Percentage of seats held by women in national parliament^: 2.7%
GDP per capita: $2,700

Latest estimates; Source: CIA World Factbook, *UNICEF, ^World Bank

Improving the health of women and children

Many women in PNG die every year due to pregnancy or childbirth. An estimated 40% of women do not give birth in a health centre or hospital putting them at greater risk of complications. Many of these women live in remote areas where a health centre could be many hours walk away. Thousands of newborns die every year, and thousands more that survive birth do not make it to their fifth birthday.

In these remote communities Village Health Volunteers bridge an essential healthcare gap. Over four years CARE has trained hundreds of local Village Health Volunteers selected by the community. These volunteers teach women and their families about women’s health, nutrition, and hygiene needs during pregnancy. They educate families about the danger signs to look out for during pregnancy and when and how to seek help. They also emphasise the importance of giving birth at a health clinic.

Maternal and Infant Health Project
©Josh Estey/CARE
Maternal and Infant Health Project
©Tom Greenwood/CARE

CARE has also supported hundreds of community leaders to become positive role models for women’s health. We have helped these leaders understand how cultural norms of inequality can negatively affect women’s health. We have helped them play a role in creating a community that is supportive of women’s health and free from family violence.

Moreover, CARE’s health programs are saving the lives of women, girls and children by making sure critical health services including antenatal care, skilled attendants at birth, family planning and vaccinations are available.

Read more. ‘Bridging’ the healthcare gap in remote communities.

Through your support CARE is training health volunteers like Tabita

Tabita Bafe lives in a remote village in Morobe Province which is cut off from public services like schools and hospitals by a major river. The village is only accessible by helicopter or several days’ walk through steep terrain.

In 2016, Tabita heard of CARE’s Maternal Health Volunteer training: “I was living in the village and I didn’t know how to help women. Many were struggling. There was no group for women to come together to talk about their health and keeping their babies strong. They did not understand how their children were getting sick and used to struggle a lot during deliveries. Most women did not come to the health centre because of cultural taboos.”

Tabita takes pride in the work she has done since the training she received from CARE. “I speak with all the women in the village, and accompany them to the health centre when they need antenatal check-ups. I also speak with families about the importance of making sure pregnant women eat good food and get plenty of rest during pregnancy. In the case of birth complications, I help them with referrals to the regional hospital which is an 8 hour walk from the village.”

CARE-trained Maternal Health Volunteer Tabita Bafe (in white t-shirt) with mothers, babies and CARE staff in Papua New Guinea ©Patrick McCloskey/CARE

Empowering women through coffee and cocoa farming

Coffee and cocoa are major exports for PNG. Yet women who provide the majority of labour for small cocoa and coffee farm soften miss out on the benefits of farming incomes. Women bear the double burden of household chores and farming work, but have little control over the money they earn or the land they farm.

CARE’s coffee and cocoa programs aim to improve the situation for women farmers by working with coffee and cocoa exporters. We are building the agricultural skills of coffee and cocoa farming families, keeping the benefit of the women workers in mind. These families are then encouraged to share their new skills and knowledge with their neighbours and the broader community. CARE has trained thousands of coffee farmers on farm management and family business management. The trainings help the farmers understand how important it is to give women an equal share in making decisions, household work and income. Men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women are already changing for the better, and farming practices are improving because of these trainings.

We are working with the cocoa and coffee industry to develop policies and processes that ensure greater equality for women. We have also set up a Coffee Industry Graduate Program to encourage more PNG women to become professionals that can help farmers with agricultural knowledge. Since the project started, the number of women participating in farming and business management training has also grown rapidly.

Enabling better governance in schools

While PNG has had 14 years of strong economic growth, rural and remote areas of PNG are far behind, especially in education and health services. Weak governance systems are at the heart of the problem where the use of government funding is often not transparent.

Children, especially girls from remote communities of PNG face challenges to gain a quality education. In the Eastern Highlands, CARE is helping communities demand improved education services from the government. We are bringing together government officials, school management and parents to communicate directly about the challenges their schools face and come up with joint solutions. This process keeps the decision-makers accountable, and brings a better outcome for schools, teachers and children.

With the government of PNG, we are providing better teaching and learning materials to schools. We are also providing scholarships to teachers so they can be better trained. Stronger supervision by the government and on-the-job training is also helping improve teaching.

PNG education
©Tom Greenwood/CARE
ICDP footbridge
©Tom Greenwood/CARE

Helping families in emergency and crisis

PNG is at a high risk of natural disasters including drought, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and volcanic eruptions. In 2015 and 2016, more than 1.8 million people across PNG were affected by an extended period of drought and frosts linked to El Nino. The PNG highlands region – where CARE has a strong presence – was the worst affected, with crops failing and water supplies drying up. CARE supported the PNG Government by providing lifesaving water, healthcare and sanitation and emergency supplies to more than 300,000 people.

CARE continues to make sure families are more resilient to disasters in PNG. We are training key government representatives and community members on how to identify risks, be prepared for the next disaster and manage resources when an emergency hits.

Other Resources and Highlights

Banner image ©Tom Greenwood/CARE