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Papua New Guinea
MSF in Papua New Guinea, 2007
Field Staff: 163
Reason for Intervention:
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Papua New Guinea’s circumstances are fairly unique. The island country has only been independent for 30 years and is comprised of hundreds of tribes (speaking more than a total of 860 languages).
The inhabitants are still unfamiliar with the idea of being one nation with a central government and much of the country is struggling to adjust. The country’s population of approximately six million people predominantly lives in rural and often very remote areas of the island.
Significant health issues
Papua New Guinea has some of the worst health statistics in the Pacific region. Maternal and infant mortality rates are high, and treatable diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB) remain common. With an overall estimated HIV prevalence of two per cent among adults and pockets of much higher prevalence in some communities, AIDS has become a significant health issue. Violence occurring at all levels of society causes an enormous amount of harm, with physical and sexual violence against women and children (particularly girls) being extreme. Currently, the country’s health services cannot handle the tremendous need for care.
In mid-2007, a second assessment confirmed that women and children continued to suffer from massive levels of domestic and social violence and that appropriate medical and psychosocial assistance for its survivors was almost entirely absent in most parts of the country. Based on these findings, MSF began supporting the Women and Children’s Support Center in the city of Lae. The clinic, founded by Soroptomists International, was handed over to MSF by the signing of an agreement with the Morobe province Angau Memorial Hospital. This program aims to establish quality healthcare services and provide a model of care for others. An additional new facility was also built and the staff started seeing patients in December 2007. The team provided comprehensive outpatient medical and psychosocial care to survivors of genderbased violence, including rape. The MSF team also worked closely with staff from the Ministry of Health in Lae Hospital, in an effort to improve hospital services for victims of violence, particularly those services offered in the emergency department.
New project sites
In 2008, MSF plans to further develop and expand the existing clinic’s services while also looking for potential, new project sites in the country. When appropriate, MSF will carry out advocacy work to help establish national protocols and service guidelines to better meet the needs of those harmed by genderbased violence.
MSF has worked in Papua New Guinea since 2007.