Children have always held an important place in the culture and traditions of Papua New Guinea. They are the source of group strengths, descent, identity and other kin-related values. They are the future of the tribe and the State, the embodiment of development, security and justice espoused in the country’s Constitution.
Papua New Guinea ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in March 1993 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in February 1995, fully underlining its commitment to the human rights of all children, boys and girls as well as rich and poor.
Children make up almost half of Papua New Guinea’s largely rural population. The population is estimated at 6.2 million; a vast majority of them live in hard to reach areas, with difficulty in accessing services. Despite having great potential, the population remains fragmented and poverty is deepening for the majority of them. According to most recent estimates 40 per cent live in absolute poverty.Children make up almost half of Papua New Guinea’s largely rural population
At least 500 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; for each of these deaths, at least 30 others suffer complications such as severe anaemia, chronic pelvic infection, fistulae, prolapse of the womb and other problems. Nearly all deaths (over 90 per cent) occur at home, far beyond the reach of the formal health system.
HIV/AIDS is a rapidly growing problem accompanied by stigma and discrimination. It is estimated that over 50,000 Papua New Guineans are currently HIV-infected. The number of infected children is estimated to be 11,000. Some estimates say that 800,000 children (that is one third of the child population) are affected by HIV/AIDS. Mainly driven by heterosexual spread, HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea is fuelled by early debut of sexual activity, low and inconsistent condom use, high levels of sexually transmitted diseases, poverty, gender inequality and violence, and economic enclaves where informal sex trade is growing.
As many as half the primary school-age children are out of school. Half of those who enrol drop out before grade six. Many of the schools lack basic facilities such as safe water and toilet facilities as well as furniture and teaching aids.
Young people are often denied their right to continuous learning and access to income. Youth unemployment rate is on the increase. Opportunities for young people to express their views are extremely limited. Most services are not young people friendly. Despite great traditions, violence against women and children and physical and sexual abuse of children are widely prevalent and a major threat to Papua New Guinea’s development. Girls and women have lower social standing and are not protected from violence and abuse.
Papua New Guinea is highly disaster prone. Lying directly on the fault lines, it is extremely prone to earth quakes and volcanoes. Floods and land-slides are frequent. Tsunamis, cyclones and earth quakes are occasional.