While children hold an important place in the culture and traditions of Papua New Guinea, they face daily struggles and an uncertain future. Challenges lie in all areas; from going to school, to finding health services, and feeling safe at home. These problems prevent them from enjoying their childhood and their rights to which they are entitled. Widespread poverty, declining health and social services, and inaccessibility to places and people in need, are all factors crippling children’s development.
Traditional culture is being eroded as more people are drifting to the cities, with many young people unable to find jobs. High levels of frustration lead to crime and violence, while many children are exposed to abuse and sexual exploitation. Children are also vulnerable to diseases, especially malaria, pneumonia, diarrheal diseases and more recently HIV and AIDS, which has reached epidemic proportions. These issues are threatening the basic right of children to have a healthy, happy and safe childhood.
Despite these challenges, some progress has been made by UNICEF working with Government and other key development partners.
In 2009 alone, significant achievements were made;
• Lukautim Pikinini Act (Child) Act 2009 was passed, an important step forward in rights based child protection legislation
• Universal Basic Education Plan (UBE) was launched accompanied by a declaration from the Government to abolish school fees for elementary education from 2010.
• 500 school children and 3000 people benefited from access to safe water and improved sanitation through the installation of Water and Environment Sanitation (WES) equipment including 36 rainwater catchment systems, 108 latrines and 3 gravity-fed water supply systems.
• UNICEF supplied technical and financial assistance to Provincial Health offices with communication and Water, Environment and Sanitation activities during the cholera outbreak.
• Access for pregnant women who are HIV positive to Prevention of Parents to Child Transmission (PPTCT) services has increased from 2.3 percent in 2007 to 6.5 percent in 2009.