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At a glance: Papua New Guinea

The big picture

Click for a detailed map (PDF)

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

Papua New Guinea is widely dispersed over 462,840 square kilometres of land area with very difficult terrain, the population is young and has a high proportion of unemployed.  Papua New Guinea is prone to natural disasters, and in the last decade alone has experienced multiple incidences of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, droughts and killer frost that have resulted in a loss of lives; displacement of families; destruction of crops, property and livelihoods ; and disruption to social services, such as health and education.

The country was declared polio free in 2000. However, immunization coverage has stagnated in the last decade, with only about one half of children under one year old being reached with polio and measles vaccines, and only 44 per cent of pregnant women receiving tetanus toxoid immunization. Preventable diseases, such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea, are still the major causes of morbidity and mortality. The inadequate coverage of antenatal care and the low number of births attended by trained health professionals increase the risk to both mother and child during delivery. Access to potable water and sanitary latrines remains limited only to urban areas.

UNICEF priorities

UNICEF activities focus on the areas of:

  • Health and nutrition, including early childhood development (ECD);
  • HIV/AIDS prevention;
  • Child protection;
  • Promoting girls' education; and 
  • Planning and communication.

Emergency preparedness will be heightened to allow UNICEF to effectively and appropriately respond to emergencies.

Health, nutrition and ECD activities will contribute to a reduction in infant, under-five and maternal mortality and morbidity through a mix of national and local interventions. Specific strategies include the provision of an integrated essential care package that includes child health, immunization and the control of micronutrient deficiencies; safe motherhood interventions; assistance in  providing potable water and safe waste disposal; caring and nurturing of the young child; and empowerment of families to demand services for their children's growth and development. 

HIV/AIDS prevention will focus on reducing MTCT through; the development of a national MTCT policy and protocol, in collaboration with the National AIDS Council; equipping health workers with skills in voluntary counselling and testing, the promotion of obstetric techniques for the prevention of MTCT during conception and delivery, and feeding options for babies of HIV-positive mothers; and assisting in the testing of appropriate retroviral drugs. The programme will also collaborate with the education sector to promote behavioural change and the care of orphans at the community level.

Activities in the area of Child protection will advocate for the official publication of the Juvenile Justice Act; ensure that children in conflict with the law are rehabilitated rather than jailed; create awareness, through a pilot project in the capital territory, on family violence, with an emphasis on child abuse, including sexual abuse and neglect; expand birth registration nationwide; advocate for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, in particular sexual exploitation; and focus on Bougainville for post-war trauma counselling.

The Girls' education component of UNICEF ‘s work will continue to ensure that children have equitable access to basic education through supporting the education reform and creating awareness among parents about the value of education, particularly for girls.

The planning and communication component will take primary responsibility for emergency preparedness and collaborate with the child protection programme for Bougainville.



Basic Indicators

Under-5 mortality rank


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 1990


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 2012


U5MR by sex 2012, male


U5MR by sex 2012, female


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2012


Neonatal mortality rate 2012


Total population (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of births (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) 2012


GNI per capita (US$) 2012


Life expectancy at birth (years) 2012


Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*


Primary school net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2011*

Definitions and data sources [popup]

Source: The State of the World's Children

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