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papua new guinea

Papua New Guinea consists of a group of islands in Oceania; between the Coral Sea and South Pacific Ocean. Papua New Guinea borders with the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, the Solomon Islands and Australia. The topography of PNG is among the most rugged in the world and with altitudes of over 4000m only 13% of the country is inhabited (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. [FAO], 2003).The terrain makes travel and communication between villages difficult. Due to the country’s position in the pacific “ring of fire”, the country experiences earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis and volcanic activity.

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In 1885, the northern portion of Papua New Guinea belonged to Germany and the southern belonged to the UK. The UK handed over the southern region in 1902 to Australia and the northern was acquired in the First World War. Australia governed PNG until 1975, when the country obtained Independence.

Papua New Guinea has three official languages; Tok Pisin- the widely spoken language, English- used mainly in government and business and Miri Motu- spoken mainly in the Papua region. There are approximately 715 native languages, many of which are unrelated.

The political situation in Papua New Guinea can be uncertain at times. National elections were held in June-July 2012 and increased levels of violence were reported. The high crime rate and violence in areas such as Port Moresby, Lae, Mt Hagan and other regions of the Highlands cause safety concerns for locals and travellers to these regions. Car jacking, ethnic disputes resulting in tribal fighting, and violence in large crowds are common. Family violence is a huge problem in PNG and accounts for many hospitalisations each year.

PNG has a population of 6 732 000 and an annual population growth rate of 1.99%.

Health outcomes

The average life expectancy (at birth) is 62 years for men and 65 years for women, which is about 20 years lower than Australia (Life expectancy: M= 80; W= 84). The probably of dying under the age of 5 years is 68 per 1000 births which is considerably high compared to Australia where the rate is 5 per 1000 births.

The leading causes of death in PNG are malaria, pneumonia, peri-natal deaths, tuberculosis, meningitis, heart disease, cancer, accidents and violence. Other common conditions which pose threats to health in PNG are HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, alcohol and tobacco.