Papua New Guinea achieved independence in 1975, following 55 years of administration by Australia. Before that, the area had been divided into British and German colonial interests. It is the largest island in the Pacific and one of the most varied areas of geographic, biological, and cultural wealth on earth. Although the population is less than 7 million, linguistically it is the world's most diverse country, with more than 700 indigenous languages.
Papua New Guinea is abundant with natural and mineral resources including forestry, fish, nickel, cobalt, oil, copper, and gold. Mining and logging are major sources of revenue for the government. However, the environmental and social consequences for affected communities are severe.
Despite extensive natural resources, 28% of the population are living below the poverty line (Asian Development Bank 2013). Papua New Guineans also have very low average life expectancy and very high maternal and infant mortality rates.
Many health indicators have deteriorated in recent years, including the availability and performance of health facilities. Preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhoea, as well as malnutrition contribute to an increasing number of deaths. The increase in reported HIV and AIDS cases is alarming and PNG now has the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific region and according to a recent UNDP report on the Millennium Development Goals (UNDP 2004), PNG fits the criteria for a generalised HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Conflict in Bougainville
Bougainville is a small island nestled between the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea that has historically been governed by Papua New Guinea. However, between 1989 and 1998, Bougainville and the Buka Islands were locked in civil conflict with the Government of PNG.
Up to 20,000 people died during the long conflict. Traditional life on the island was destroyed and whole communities were displaced and traumatised.
A Peace Agreement was eventually signed in 2001 that aimed to allow autonomy for Bougainville. Elections in May 2005, as part of the peace deal, have resulted in an Autonomous Government of Bougainville.
Stats and facts
- Capital: Port Moresby
- Population: 6,672,429 (2015)
- GDP per capita (USD): $2,500 (2014)
- Human Development Index: 0.491 (2013)
- Language: Pidgin, English, over 700 indigenous languages
- Religion: Christianity, indigenous beliefs
- Adult literacy: 64.2% (2015)
- Life expectancy: 67.03 years (2015)
- Government: constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy
- Access to safe water: 40% (2015)
- Access to toilets: 18.9% (2015)
- Infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births): 38.55 (2015)
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