Social Concerns Notes – July 2020

PNG hospitals brace for Covid-19 surge. 27 July 2020

PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s Covid-19 outbreak could overwhelm its health system within days, the country’s pandemic chief has warned, as masks have been made compulsory in the capital, and the government has called in the World Health Organisation and the military for help.
PNG’s pandemic response controller David Manning said a dedicated isolation unit
established in Port Moresby to treat Covid-19 could soon be overwhelmed if current infections trends continue. The largest number of infections are of healthcare workers who have been working in a Covid-19 testing lab and been exposed.
The governor of Port Moresby, Powes Parkop, told Australia’s ABC that the capital faced “a situation that we dreaded, simply because of the impact of the virus and also our capacity to respond. “We simply don’t have the capacity, we don’t have enough space in isolation facilities, in the hospital, we don’t have enough medical officers and we don’t have enough equipment,” he said. By global standards, PNG’s known Covid-19 infections remain low – with just 39 confirmed cases – but it has trebled in just over a week. There are also significant concerns that infection rates are far higher than reported because of low testing rates, particularly in remote areas. Manning conceded that outside Port Moresby testing has been “very limited”.
A nationwide testing sweep during the country’s declared state of emergency found at least 300 people with Covid-19 antibodies: it appears they have had the disease and recovered. PNG had gone more than a month without reporting any new cases of Covid, before two major clusters, first at the country’s military headquarters, Murray Barracks, and then at
Port Moresby general hospital. Marape announced masks would be compulsory outside the home in Port Moresby, a city where more than half of the nearly 500,000 population live in densely crowded unofficial settlements where social distancing is difficult. PAPUA NEW GUINEANS AGAINST VIOLENCE
Dominica Bessie Abo
Young Dr Rebecca Williams serving the remote rural people of Kompiam diligently for five years now. Many a times she reach the sick and dying on foot walking the rough terrains of Kompiam in Enga. She could have easily chosen to work in a Provincial or City Hospital but has committed her life to serving the majority of our population in remote rural area.
As her mother I was concerned about her taking up this call initially but her reply to me was, “If I don’t do it who else is going to do it.” There are other health care giver’s out there like
her serving the population at large in the rural remote parts of PNG without much government support. They do not travel in limousines on paved road or fly in jet planes to reach their clients. They walk through rough terrains on foot climbing mountains, crossing fast flowing rivers in rainy or sunny weather. They need government support to continuously support the rural population. Most of the Church Health Services have been
closed for some months now due to lack of government funding support. Who is going to attend to the sick and dying in the remote rural areas of PNG?
Successive governments have been barking a lot about wanting Medical Officers to serve in rural areas. It is only hot air where is the support?


Domestic violence a pandemic in PNG: UN

July 14, 2020 The National

DOMESTIC violence is a different kind of pandemic in PNG which requires immediate action to stop, an official says. “Like coronavirus, it requires immediate action to stop – justice to hold perpetrators to account, health services to treat wounds, housing for women and children, opportunities for women to earn and control their own income so they can build a better life,” UN Women’s country representative Susan Ferguson said. UN resident coordinator Gianluca Rampolla said violence against women and children was a scourge. “Civil society, including churches and unfunded women’s organisations, continue
to carry much of the burden for this emergency,” Rampolla said.
“The UN redoubles its commitment to support the Papua New Guinea Government as it bears the primary responsibility for recovery from this plague.
“Prevention and response to domestic violence will improve the lives of many women and children suffering abuse; and prevention and response will improve the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic itself.”
The UN thanked development partners for their support to eliminate violence against women and children in PNG. The Real State of Emergency. Jennifer Baing-Waiko
The real State of Emergency is the Demon in your community, patriarchal abuse of power and resources: … Let’s all be honest about this we are surrounded by violence against women on a daily basis. At least once a week someone connected to me or near to me faces domestic violence. Just two weeks ago a women had her cheeks stabbed open by a husband who had to be taken to jail with our car. We jailed one of my close relatives for trying to strangle my cousin sister in my own house while I was breastfeeding my child last year and had just arrived home from Port Moresby. Our country is sick!! The sooner we confess it we
can start the process of healing it. Children growing up on the street at market places, neglected by their parents busy playing cards until late at night. Children physically and sexually abused due to neglect and acceptance of perpetrators in our communities!!! ENOUGH is ENOUGH!!! We have to pay police fuel money to come and protect us, families getting cartons of lamflaps as compensation for sexual crimes against women and children!!! Sick nation, sick people we have all become!! The foundation was never built properly we are crumbling to pieces let’s stop pretending that things are improving, they are not!!! We are only trying to cover the bleeding wounds and open sores of this nation. We want real and meaningful change, not money and handouts, bel kol mani!!!! Check yourself, reflect on your own attitudes. Our minds are in the gutters. We need to start with the next generation and build up from there. This is a cursed generation. Look to your
children and the youth of this nation for change. #womenslivesmatter

Official: 3mil living under poverty line

July 8, 2020 The National

AN estimated three million people in Papua New Guinea are living below the poverty line, a senior Government department official says.
Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) director of food security branch coordinator Brown Konabe said the data was based on a lack of income because one way to have food security was to have money.


Konabe pointed out that the country had a high rate of malnutrition because of protein deficiency.
“Children under five years old have a very high level of protein deficiency due to not getting enough protein in their daily diet,” he said.

He said the number of those living under the poverty line stood at 48 per cent and was one of the highest in the world



Covid-19 & the urban poor 11 July 2020

PORT MORESBY – On the eve of Papua New Guinea’s state of emergency shut down, little did informal vendors know how this sudden decision would snap their daily livelihoods. While the state of emergency was a crucial measure to prevent the spread of the virus, the restrictions imposed had a devastating impact on the majority of urban people.
“Suddenly everything comes to a close, like as if our lives were put to stop by a greater agenda,” said one vendor. The government was caught unawares and severely underestimated the impact of the lockdown on the urban poor.


The belated attempts to provide food were uncoordinated and failed to compensate for the loss of earnings.
Morata is one of Port Moresby’s largest squatter settlements, one of many shanty towns and settlements throughout the country. It is densely populated; home to thousands of people whose main income is generated through informal economic activities. The impact of the state of emergency restrictions on the people of Morata was immediate and severe; with the poorest families faring the worst. Within two weeks, incomes had dropped by as much as 90% for the poorest families. On a typical evening, with an average of over 15 mouths to feed in a household, middle to high income earners were able to survive the first few weeks. Sadly, low income earners immediately went without food.

The primary problems revealed by our survey were:

Access to food and other supplies.

Public transport suspension.

Public gatherings prohibited.

Markets price increase.

Restricted access to health and education.

Hunger and starvation. 95% of households confirmed they skipped meals in the first week of the state of emergency and experienced hunger and starvation in the second week. Five percent of respondents went to churches to get food through the government supported feeding program.

The pandemic has amplified and further widened the gap between rich and the poor.

Gender violence: Much at stake in Jennelyn case 11 July 2020 case.html#more

PORT MORESBY – Never has a court case concerning domestic violence captivated the
nation like the one involving Bosip Kaiwi, charged for the wilful murder of his partner, Jennelyn Kennedy. Already there are public concerns about how police are handling the situation; concern justified based on many accounts of police officers failing to carry out their duties diligently and without favour or bias. The honest and dedicated police officers seem to be outnumbered by bad coppers who are tainting the image of the force. And all this exacerbated by other high profile cases swept under the rug. The result is obvious – public trust and confidence in the police force has been eroded to an extent where its members are treated with disdain and doubt. One gets the feeling that we are reaching a breaking point in our nation’s history as people lose trust in the justice system. It seems just a matter of time before we witness a nation engulfed in jungle justice where people will take the law into their own hands. In a country already marred by revenge killing, the last thing we want is for the justice system to fail totally.
Kennedy’s’s death and Bosip Kaiwi’s court case be a watershed moment in our nation’s ability to address gender based violence? The majority of Papua New Guineans would like to think so.

WHO: Too many die in childbirth

July 14, 2020The National

THE country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the Western Pacific with two women and 20 newborns dying per 1,000 live births, says World Health Organisation


It is based on its 2016-2018 Demographic and Health Survey.
“This number is unacceptably high,” says WHO country representative, Dr Luo Dapeng. “Although progress has been made in PNG’s maternal health statistics, too many women continue to die during childbirth.” Dr Luo said with the essential resources, skilled workforce and political leadership, many of these deaths could be prevented. “Families must also make it their priority to ensure that pregnant women continue their ante-natal and post- natal checks, even in the midst of the Covid-19,” he said. “This is very important to allow health-care workers to check for any early warning signs and treat any concerns.
“Currently, only 40 per cent of women deliver their babies at a health facility supervised by
a skilled health worker.” HEALTH CRISIS AN EYE OPENER ON THE CARE FOR THE POOR Fr. Giorgio Licini. Post Courier – 14 July 2020, p. 11
The current crisis in the health sector in Papua New Guinea is an eye opener. The nurses and doctors of the Christian Health Services and Catholic Church Health Services have scaled down or completely interrupted work by the 3rd of July due to no release of operational grants and no payment of salaries by the government since January 2020.
The financial difficulties of the government in these times of pandemic and apparent change in economic policies and foreign investments can be understood. The question, however, arises when it comes to the setting of priorities. The health services of the different Christian denominations in PNG cover about 50% of the total national health sector. The fact that they are located mostly in the rural areas, where there is nearly no government infrastructure, tells how vital these services are for millions of disadvantaged citizens in the country.
Yes. Salaries may have been delayed by relying on the fact that Church management serves
as a deterrent against quicker abandonment of duties. And the Churches may in effect be able, as in similar instances in the past, to mobilize emergency resources for a few fortnight contributions. But the Churches are not raising taxes. Without government paid salaries, their health services would be all gone in much less than one year. The government must be careful not to undermine its claimed Christian inspiration with practices that jeopardize it, such as spots of blurred financial accountability, neglect of remote areas, financial rewards for hosting scores of asylum seekers and refugees who never aimed at our shores. The issue here are the rural health services. Should they fall again at a very low level of priority, then the commitment of the government to the most disadvantaged people in the country could be seriously questioned. In a post COVID-19 poorer world, there will be no margins for personal and corporate greed; or human arrogance will once again push millions to the fringes, and in conditions of
starvation, sickness, and death. Papua New Guinea is a rare example of a country refraining from investing in armaments and weapons of war. Still the task of ensuring sufficient financial resources for the required basic services, for the State machinery, and the infrastructural improvements for a growing population is daunting. Can’t waste a single toea. International solidarity helps, but not at the price of sacrificing human rights and moral standards. At the end of the day every person and every country are largely
responsible for their destiny. What is essential is the integrity and commitment of the leadership, which is immediately seen in the treatment reserved to the marginalized and the poor.


PNG drops in human development

July 15, 2020 The National

PNG continues to plummet in the world human development rating 40 years on, according to Wewak MP and chairman of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) Kevin Isifu. “This is a grave concern,” he said, adding that he would take this opportunity as new According to Isifu, PNG was ranked 78th in the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) in 1995. He said in the same year, provincial government reforms took place in the
country. “This impacted very much on service delivery at the sub-national second-tier level of government,” he said. Isifu said in 2010, the HDI rating of PNG plunged further to 147th placing and further plummeted to 158th in 2019 – a drop by 80 places in 25 years.
“After 45 years, we must reflect to see where we’ve gone wrong,” he said. “It is something that all of us need to question.
“ “Every year, our gold, copper, oil, gas, logs, and fish are being exported. Every year, our budget is increasing.
“We have so many resources yet our people are so poor. “It is time to go back and review these things.”

GBV out of control, says doctor

July 22, 2020 The National

GENDER-based violence (GBV) in the country has gone out of control and is an emerging public health crisis and serious human rights issue, a doctor says.
Deputy chairman of National Health Board of PNG Dr Mathias Sapuri said the few high profile cases in the media of brutal murders and violent attacks on women and girls was just
a tip of the iceberg of a problem that had reached national epidemic proportions.
He said the government needed to take decisive action to protect women and girls.
Sapuri said a commission of inquiry should be established to look into the root causes of gender-based violence and develop effective policies to fight this social ill that was affecting society. “As a senior specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist in women’s health, I see victims of gender-based violence frequently and am alarmed by the widespread escalation of GBV in all parts of the country in the recent years,” Sapuri said.
“The national government needs to take a drastic action to control and eliminate violence in all its forms. “We need evidence-based solutions for GBV in the country.
“Without knowing the root causes of GBV in the country we cannot afford to adopt reactive measures to address a serious public health issue. “We have existing laws to protect the victims but sadly these are not effectively enforced. “The country needs a new approach to
dealing with gender-based violence and the findings of a Royal Commission can help us achieve that. “Women are victims in sorcery-related allegations, women and girls are victims of polygamous marriages, they are victims of breakdown in marriages due to mistrust and infidelity, women and girls are victims in younger age marriages, they are victims over stress on finances on families” he said.


Concern raised over doctor, patient ratio

July 20, 2020 The National

AMONG bad health indicators facing PNG, the current one doctor to 17,620 patient ratio (1:17,620) is more than 40 times worse than the World Health Organisation (WHO)
approved ratio of 1:400, chief consultant to the University of Goroka’s school of medicine and teaching hospital project Dr John Tonar says.
He said the medical school and teaching hospital project was attached to the current


programmes the university was delivering; it would greatly assist PNG to reduce the ratio and its ailing health indicators.
Tonar outlined the rationale for the project and the doctor-patient ratio stood out.
He was accompanied by chancellor of UOG Joseph Sukwianomb. “Some developed countries in the world meet the WHO ratio, in PNG we need 23,000 doctors to meet that requirement with a current population soaring towards 8.9 million people,” he said. “The 120,000 health workers currently in our health system, just cannot satisfy the demand,” Tonar said. He said the only medical school in the country produced 30 to 50 doctors annually, a the cost of around K20 million under an Australian-devised curriculum, there were some
compromise in the quality of doctors graduating every year.
“The scenario does not help the indicator, PNG is rated 154th out of 187 countries in the world in the human capital development index, the situation is not only for medical professionals and manpower in the health sector but other sectors as well.
“We even do not have 1,000 doctors in PNG, we have below 950 doctors in the country, according to the National Doctors Association statistics,” Tonar said.
He said with a 2.5 per cent population growth rate annually, with the sector leaning on deteriorating colonial health facilities with minimal manpower it could not absorb the demand. Tonar said the question was how the country could improve its ailing health indicators.

ICAC will not be politically independent 22 July 2020 EDDIE TANAGO
PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption will not be free from possible political interference under the terms of the draft bill to be debated in the next session of parliament. The prime minister will chair and the leader of the opposition will be a member of the committee that appoints both ICAC commissioners and the members of the oversight committee that will constantly review the operations, functions and powers of the ICAC. The prime minister will also have an absolute power to block investigations into corrupt conduct where he determines the matters under investigation should be kept secret on the grounds of national security, international relations or the public interest. Both these provisions are completely unacceptable and fundamentally undermine the basic principle of an ICAC that it must be independent and free from any possibility or even perception of political interference. The power to block investigations on the grounds of national security, international relations or public interest
is one that should be given to the chief justice who should make a determination on the basis of arguments from both the government and the ICAC.
It should not be an absolute power given to the prime minister. Catholic Bishops raise concerns at Press Conference Port Moresby: Following a week-long Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Catholic Bishops
have raised concerns and issues relating to their ministry as shepherds and pastors.


A press conference was held on Thursday, 2nd July, at which pressing issues were presented by the newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Anton Bal, Archdiocese of Madang supported by sixteen other Bishops.
“The primary mission of the Church is to help people to encounter the loving and saving person of the Lord Jesus. The Church is also concerned with the totality of the human person and their life in the world and therefore we have considered these issues,” stated Archbishop Anton Bal. According to the statement by the Bishops, the first point highlighted the joint decision of Catholic Church Health Services and Christian Health Services to stop work at health centres.
“The bishops came to the very difficult conclusion of endorsing the joint decision of the Catholic Church Health Services and Christian Health Services because the government has failed to pay health care personnel under these agencies for several months.”
They are urging the government as a matter of justice to reimburse the full amount owed to the nurses, so that they may continue their crucial work of caring for the sick and suffering. There was also a mention made by Bp Francis Meli about the operational grants due since 2017 for the medical schools run by the churches. Bishop Anthon Bal said the Bishops are grateful for the measures being taken to safeguard the people of PNG from the threat of COVID-19. At the same time, the bishops urge the government to adhere to legitimate constitutional principles when instituting further measures. “We urge the government to adhere to legitimate constitutional principles when instituting further measures and that transparent accounting must also be made of all funds secured for the purpose of the COVID-19 mitigation and response.” Another point stressed upon was the issue of violence. Abp Anton Bal stated that the church
promotes the respect for human life at all stages and rejects all kinds of violence including domestic violence, sorcery accusation violence and tribal fighting. “The bishops join the wider society of PNG in their condemnation and horror at recent examples of brutality and violence toward women. These practices, which are all too common and often committed with impunity must cease,” he said. He also pointed out that the bishops are concerned that unscrupulous people are taking advantage of many people in our communities with illegal financial schemes and others who are lending money at exorbitant rates of interest. The Bishops are now calling on the appropriate government offices to investigate these matters and to prosecute those found guilty of these immoral practices which harm the poor above all.
The concern of asylum seekers and refugees was also raised at the Bishops AGM where they met with H.E. Jon Philp, High Commissioner of Australia to PNG and raised important issues regarding their welfare.


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