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.

A recent polio outbreak has worsened conditions, particularly in rural areas, where volunteer nurses must carry vaccinations in cooler-bags from city hospitals out to remote health clinics to make sure newborn babies receive their inoculations. New mother Anita, 22, just gave birth to her daughter in a remote health clinic, where the CARE-trained nurse was able to ensure the newborn received the vaccination straight away. But the clinic doesn’t have a refrigerator so is unable to store enough supplies for the entire community. Thousands of newborns are at risk of contracting polio without further funding to clinics like these.

Anita's daughter is one day old and able to receive a polio vaccination thanks to CARE
©John Hewat/CARE

At less than one day old, Anita’s little girl was able to receive the vaccination thanks to provisions provided by CARE. But there is still so much more we can do to help to make sure all babies are born healthy and given the best chance in life.

29 years of CARE

CARE has been working in PNG since 1989. We focus on creating a more equal world for women and girls by improving access to health services, health information and education, and providing support providing support to develop farming skills and take part in local decision- making. We also work with communities and families, encouraging positive attitudes and behaviours towards women.

Fast Facts

Population:  7.61 million
Life expectancy:  67.3 years (65.1 years male, 69.7 years female) (2017 est.)
Infant mortality:  48 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
Under-5 mortality*:  63 deaths/1,000 live births
Maternal mortality: 215 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
Adult literacy rate: 64.2% (65.6% male, 62.8% female) (2015 est.)
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, 70.5% female (2018 est.)
Percentage of seats held by women in national parliament^: 0%
GDP per capita:  $3,800 (2017 est.)

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

PNG education
©Tom Greenwood/CARE

Empowerment through education

While PNG has had many 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.

Improved health services

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. 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
©Tom Greenwood/CARE
©CARE

Empowering women and girls

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 training helps 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 this training.

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.

Health volunteers offer hope

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 prenatal 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

Read more about our ongoing impact in Papua New Guinea:

– More CARE evaluation reports from PNG and other countries are available at CARE’s Electronic Evaluation Library.

Other Resources and Highlights

The on-going work we do in Papua New Guinea is in partnership with these local organisations: AROB Provincial Health Office, Barola Haus Mama, Bougainville Healthy Communities, Catholic Health Services (Bougainville), Department of Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs, Eastern Highlands Provincial Division of Health, EBC Health Services, Leitana Nehan, LIFE Group, Lutheran Health Services, Marie Stopes – Lae, Markham District Health Services, Menyamya District Health Services, Morobe Provincial Division of Health, National Department of Education, National Department of Health, National Literacy Awareness Secretariat, Nissan District Village Assembly, Obura Wonenara District Administration, Office of the Governor – Eastern Highlands Province, Office of the Open Member – Obura Wonenara District, Osi Tanata, Provincial Division of Education – Eastern Highlands, Rurubu Health Centre (United Church), Taonita Teop & Taonita Tinputz Councils of Elders, Tinputz Cocoa Agriculture Community Services, and Tinputz District Administration.

Banner image ©Tom Greenwood/CARE