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Leah and Jeanette at the opening of The Yehimbole Literacy Program (YLP), Yehimbole village

Papua New Guinea

They’re our nearest neighbours yet life for Papua New Guineans is a world away from ours in Australia with more than half the population living on less than US$1 a day. The causes are complex but Oxfam Australia’s commitment is long-term, to ensure poor communities, particularly women, enjoy the benefits of their resource-rich nation and build a sustainable future for the next generation.

Watch our Program Manager in Port Moresby, Sam Ramsden, talk about our current work and plans for the future.

Find out more about our work in the Sepik region.

Women’s rights and violence

Out of the 136 countries listed on the UNDP’s gender development index, PNG ranks at just 124, placing it in the bottom 10% of countries worldwide. Statistics that translate to a harsh reality for many women in PNG – two out of three have experienced domestic violence and 50% have experienced forced sex. We work with both men and women to reduce violence and support women to learn about and protect their rights.

Managing natural resources

Most people in Papua New Guinea live in rural and remote areas of the country with limited access to services and infrastructure. As a result, PNG’s forests and rivers are critically important to the millions of people who depend on them for food and water. They’re also major sources of revenue for the government and big business. But some developments, including the mining and palm oil sectors, are causing people to lose their way of life and damaging the environment.

We’re working with communities to ensure that poverty does not become more extreme through lost habitats and the unsustainable use of natural resources.

Supporting young people

PNG has a young population – 40% are under 15 – and they’re entering adulthood amid a wide range of health and social issues. We’re helping to empower them to create the next generation of leaders.

We’re helping young people through Oxfam International Youth Partnerships (OIYP), a global network of 18-25 year olds working for positive change. PNG is represented in the network by Mercy Natalie Masta who is working to fight the country’s HIV epidemic and Festus Maiginap, a journalist with a passion for social justice.

Responding to emergencies

PNG is vulnerable to a range of natural disasters including tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, disease outbreak and earthquakes. Since 2007, we’ve responded to a number of emergencies in the country.

  • Since late 2009, we’ve been responding to communities affected by cholera outbreaks in the Sepik and Highlands regions ,and now Port Moresby.
  • In December 2008, several sea surges caused flooding in six provinces, affecting up to 75,000 people. We helped communities on four islands near Wewak access emergency supplies, shelter and clean water.
  • In November 2007, we helped more than 9,000 people affected by flooding from Cyclone Guba in Oro, Central and Milne Bay provinces. Our public health program continues to ensure people remain healthy and have access to clean water and sanitation.

Map of Papua New Guinea

Fast facts

6,187,591 (July 2011 est.)
Population below the poverty line:
Life expectancy at birth:
68.56 years women, 64.02  years men
Adult literacy rate (% aged 15 and over who can read and write):
Infant mortality rate:
43.29 deaths/1,000 live births
Improved drinking water:
40% of population
Improved sanitation:
45% of population
Unemployment rate:
2.8% up to 80% in urban areas

Source: AusAID, UNDP, CIA World Factbook