March 31, 2010
Papua New Guinea 2009 © Nathalie Muffler/MSF
The people of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are caught in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence. The rapid development the country has experienced over the past year has had the unintended consequence of aggravating existing tensions. For the most part, it is women and children who bear the brunt of this, suffering rape and other terrible forms of violence—some of it carried out by family members—that create an urgent need for both medical care and psychosocial support.
That accompaniment was necessary because the hospital, one of only a handful in the country, is always busy and offers neither confidentiality nor a safe room for victims of violence. Many patients, therefore, are too afraid to go to the hospital on their own. Also, the waiting periods in the public hospital are long, and victims of sexual violence need help quickly. Protection against HIV/AIDS with antiretroviral medicine, for instance, is only possible in the first days after a rape. Protection against an unwanted pregnancy is also still possible then. Patients also need antibiotics to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted diseases that are common in PNG and immunizations for Hepatitis B.
Breaking the Cycle of Violence
Medical help is important, but it is not enough. “Many women and children are caught in a downward spiral of violence,” Muffler notes. “They have nowhere to go but home when we discharge them from the clinic. Then everything starts again for them.” To break the cycle, people need knowledge and support. MSF outreach workers distribute flyers with information about its clinic and visit schools, marketplaces, and even road crossings in and around Lae to talk to people about the effects of violence. In addition, the team has developed contacts with a network of local groups to ensure that MSF’s services are widely known.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)