UNICEF Papua New Guinea

Country programme

Our history

Contact us


UNICEF Papua New Guinea

© UNICEF, 2004, Pirozzi
Support to immunization of the children in the country is a priority national activity for UNICEF.

UNICEF has been operational in Papua New Guinea since 1986, assisting children and women in key social development issues. The current UNICEF Country Programme 2008-12 is human rights and results-based, with a focus on adopting a program approach (rather than executing projects) and working in full alignment with the government. Full integration with, and support for, Sector Wide Approaches (SWAPs) is therefore a key strategy. UNICEF advocates strongly for children’s rights and seeks to leverage resources of the Papua New Guinea Government and other development partners and stakeholders. The UNICEF Country Programme is focused on four outcome areas where UNICEF has a comparative advantage in programming and as a development partner. Those four areas are:

Health, Nutrition and Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES)
• Education
• Child Protection

Papua New Guinea has made progress against a number of these social indicators during the first 15 years after independence in 1975. Life expectancy increased from 40 years in 1971 to nearly 50 years in 1980, while the under-five mortality rate declined from 93 per 1,000 live births in 1996 to 75 per 1,000 live births in 2006.

Despite these early advances progress has slowed dramatically in the last two decades. Endemic poverty, declining health services, an increase in the rate of HIV and AIDS infection are all escalating problems affecting the development of children in Papua New Guinea. The Government initiated the necessary steps to providing a strengthened legal foundation for programme development for children by acceding to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1993. In 1995, Papua New Guinea also acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All form of Discrimination (CEDAW). Progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been made with the formation of Papua New Guinea’s Medium Term Development Strategy (MTDS) 2005-2010. Papua New Guinea’s 2004 MDG report concluded that there was potential to achieve the MTDS targets for Goals 1 to 5, but less progress has been made with Goals 6 and 7.

About Papua New Guinea

Children in Papua New Guinea live in a country of great diversity and immense geographical challenges. Papua New Guinea is widely dispersed, with a land mass of over 450,000 square kilometers spread over rugged mountain terrain and one million square kilometers of sea. Papua New Guinea is geographically one of the largest countries in the Pacific and has over 800 ethnic groups with more than 800 distinct languages.

Almost 85 per cent of the country’s approximately 7 million people live in remote highland areas and far flung islands. These areas remain difficult and costly to provide services in. Natural disasters occur frequently and often lead to significant loss of lives, displacement of families, destruction of crops, property and livelihoods, and disruption of social services, such as health and education. Several low lying islands are also experiencing the effects of global warming and rising sea levels. Despite these challenges, the Papua New Guinean people have developed a strong survival strategy; the practice of living in sound, cohesive social units in which connections with others are of paramount importance. Traditional social values of kinship, extended family linkages and other connections outweigh individual orientation, even in modern society.

Political and Judicial Setting

Since independence in 1975, the country has been plagued by frequent – albeit democratic – changes of government, conflict related civil crises and insecurity. The decade long Bougainville crisis was abated by a United Nations brokered peace process, which paved the way for provincial autonomy in 2005.

The Papua New Guinea Constitution sets out most of the basic rights, principles of equity and development goals encompassed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the  Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is supported by a comprehensive set of legislation to give people access to these rights and goals. The Constitution and legislation, however, are not always invoked to assist or protect children, youth and women or to achieve MDGs.

Law and order is a significant problem with crime against persons and property crime occurring frequently in both rural and urban settings. Lack of confidence in the formal justice system encourages traditional methods of resolving disputes such as ‘payback’, which can take many forms, ranging from demands for compensation to property damage, rape or even murder. Poor law and order has severe implications for the psychological development of children in Papua New Guinea and their right to grow up in a safe and secure environment.

National Economy and living standards

Although agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for 85 per cent of the population, Papua New Guinea also has an abundance of natural resources. Gross Domestic Product, while having risen from its 2007 level of 6.26 per cent to 7.2 per cent in 2008, is forecast to be 4.5 per cent in 2009.  Despite economic growth, many citizens of Papua New Guinea still experience low standards of living, inadequate access to essential services and little opportunity to participate in the cash economy. Rapid population growth and concentration of economic activity and wealth in the mining and export sectors is sustaining and widening the gap between rich and poor.





Papua New Guinea at a Glance

  • Total Population - 6,826,000 (National Health Plan 2010 Estimate)
  • Population under 18 years old (2009: 3,112,000; SOWC 2011)
  • Population under 5 years (2009: 961,000; SOWC 2011)
  • Proportion of population in rural areas - 87 % (2009: SOWC 2011)
  • Population Growth Rate - 2.8 % (2009: SOWC 2011)
  • Life Expectancy at birth - 60.7 years (2009: SOWC 2011
  • GNI per capita - 1,180 (2009: SOWC 2011)

Definitions and Data Sources



 Email this article

unite for children