Quick facts

  • 8.2 million people
  • 38% living on less than USD $1.90 / day

Poverty has sharply increased in Papua New Guinea (PNG) since the mid-1990s. Today, the level of income inequality in PNG is the highest across the entire Asia-Pacific region. This damning statistic has led to the country being ranked the lowest of all nations outside sub-Saharan Africa in the United Nations Human Development Index.

PNG faces several critical challenges in its continued development, including issues of weak governance and gender inequality (which have resulted in the exclusion of women and youth from positions of power). Natural disasters are also a factor in the country’s growth, with frequent damaging incidents leading to food, water and livelihood insecurity.

Through our continued support of the country’s most disadvantaged communities, Oxfam envisages a country where men and women are treated as equal citizens, free from violence and persecution. Access to resources, livelihood opportunities and the development of essential services, especially in times of humanitarian crisis, are also issues we are passionately supporting.

Key areas of work

Gender Justice, Livelihoods and Food Security, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Governance and Social Accountability

One story of change

Photo: Rodney Dekker/Oxfam
Photo: Rodney Dekker/Oxfam

Maria, aged in her late 30s, is from a rural area in a Highlands province of Papua New Guinea. Several years ago, for reasons that are still unclear, she and her aunt were accused of the mythical and criminal act of sorcery.

Sorcery accusations add another layer of complexity to a society already struggling with unemployment, gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, and tribal conflict. On a personal level, an assertion of sorcery can tear families apart, with individuals banished from their community by violent ‘mob justice’.

For Maria these accusations lingered for over five years.

As calm returned to her village, a house burnt down along the street where Maria was living. Again, one of the owners’ sons accused both Maria and her aunt of sorcery.

Two weeks later this son was involved in a serious accident and events quickly escalated — a mob destroyed Maria’s house while she was at church and she was threatened with death.

Maria registered the destruction of her property with the police as a criminal matter, which was scheduled for hearing. When law enforcement failed to present any documentation to court, the trial did not proceed. Maria, suspecting bribery, approached the police seeking advice on her case. At the station Maria was physically assaulted. She did not return.

Maria and her aunt then sought help from an Oxfam partner organisation, which quickly assisted with their safe refuge and provided advice on how to prove innocence of sorcery. She now lives with the local priest and is planning to return to her home village in a neighbouring province.

Poverty is a driving factor in sorcery accusations. But through education programs and workshop groups, Oxfam’s partners in PNG are now instructing residents on the negative impacts that claims of sorcery bring to families and communities.

Key projects

Responding to Gender-Based and Sorcery Related Violence in the Highlands

Oxfam Australia is supporting women and men in the Highlands region in Papua New Guinea to live free from violence, in a more equal society with their rights respected. Oxfam Australia and partners seek to achieve this through awareness raising, attitude and behaviour change to prevent violence before it occurs. It is focused on gender-based violence and sorcery related violence. This $2.8 million project, four-year project (2015-2019) is supported by the Australian Government through the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Program.

Ending Violence Against Women in PNG

Oxfam Australia is supporting survivors of gender-based violence and sorcery related violence in eight provinces across PNG by working to prevent violence and increase access to quality support services for survivors. This eight-year initiative (2012-2020) is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Saving PNG Lives through Clean Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services

In partnership with the Yagoru-Saussia District, the Provincial Health Authority, and the Division of Education, Oxfam Australia is working to improve the health, well being and resilience of communities in PNG. Oxfam Australia is providing increased access to safe water and sanitation, and promoting improved hygiene practices. This four-year initiative (2016-2020) is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Active Citizenship Fostering Government Accountability in Papua New Guinea

Oxfam Australia is working to support communities in Goroka, Papua New Guinea to facilitate collective action on common issues, supporting District Development Authorities and Local Level Government to improve local planning processes and implement community-identified projects. This four-year project (2018-2022) is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).


Papua New Guinea



image description

We know the best way to fight poverty and injustice is to help people help themselves. Change the lives of vulnerable communities in PNG and around the world today.

image description

Australia’s overseas aid budget has suffered from successive cuts. Join the movement of Australians standing up for Australia’s life-changing and life-saving aid program.

image description

You can support Oxfam’s life-saving work by holding your own fundraiser or charity event and starting the conversation about poverty and injustice around the world.