Despite considerable economic growth over the past decade, Papua New Guinea remains one of the poorest performing countries in the East Asia Pacific region. The country’s health system is fragile with poor health and immunization outcomes. With an under-five mortality rate of 57 per 1000 live births, an estimated 15,400 children or one in 13 children, die each year in PNG, mostly from preventable diseases. Immunization coverage has plateaued at around 60 per cent for over a decade. The country is now dealing with a large outbreak of polio after having been polio free for almost 20 years. With a maternal mortality ratio of 215 per 100,000 live birth, an estimated 580 mothers die each year. The life-time risk of maternal death is eight times higher in PNG than in East Asia and Pacific region average. In-equity is a grave concern with a wide range of disparities – rural children are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday compared to urban ones. PNG has also the highest rates and number of HIV patients in the Pacific. Access to health care is extremely challenging for urban poor and rural remote communities.
We work to ensure the survival and health of children and women
UNICEF is supporting the Government by working to improve immunization coverage, nutrition and access to an integrated package of interventions to promote maternal, new-born and child care.
Immunization: Immunization against childhood illnesses is an essential part of improving the well-being of children and mothers, and protecting them against dangerous diseases. UNICEF’s support is focused on strengthening immunization systems and services. This includes training of health workers, building their skills, improving vaccine storage and transportation systems and strengthening social mobilization and communication. To ensure children receive the required vaccinations, UNICEF procures all vaccines for routine and supplementary immunization activities in the country and works with WHO and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, to introduce new vaccines. UNICEF is currently supporting a massive polio campaign in the country.
Maternal and Newborn Care: Neonatal mortality contributes significantly to deaths in children under five years. Improving newborn care interventions in the country is key to reducing under-five mortality and helping keep children healthy. To reduce deaths and illnesses in children under five and ensure they are healthy, UNICEF is working with the Government and partners to improve newborn care interventions. This includes rolling out an improved comprehensive package of maternal and early essential newborn care to ensure mothers and babies survive and thrive. These interventions are in line with the Government’s national new-born care policy that places emphasis on training and mentoring of health workers both at hospital and primary health care facilities on maternal and new-born care including prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. The programme also focuses on improving the knowledge and practices of mothers and caregivers on life-saving practices like kangaroo-mother care (KMC).