Victims of domestic and sexual violence face problems accessing health services in Papua New Guinea.
Rates of domestic and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea are high. Most victims are women and children. Poverty, unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse are contributing factors to the violence, which is often not reported. Although the problem is widespread, care remains inadequate and, in many places, there is none available.
In the city of Lae, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs the family support centre at Angau Memorial general hospital. This is a confidential and safe space that provides medical and psychosocial care to victims of family and sexual violence. In 2011, staff at the centre offered comprehensive, free care to approximately 2,200 people. A team also runs a family support centre in Tari, in Southern Highlands province, and assisted approximately 900 people. MSF offered guidance to health staff in facilities around the country, to help them establish their own family support centres.
At Tari hospital, MSF provides emergency surgical services in addition to managing the family support centre. The surgical team performed more than 800 operations and carried out over 10,000 outpatient consultations. More than one-third of cases were violence-related.
Healthcare in southern Bougainville
The Autonomous Region of Bougainville has been the scene of recurrent conflict, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, and the healthcare system has been neglected for some years. Low-level conflict persists, and access to healthcare is poor.
MSF first supported Buin health centre, in the south of Bougainville Island, after the ceasefire of 1998. In April 2011, MSF returned to Buin to improve access to care. Staff carried out some 6,820 outpatient consultations and cared for more than 570 inpatients.
Many women in Bougainville have to travel enormous distances if they wish to give birth in a health facility. MSF and Papua New Guinea’s Division of Health have opened a maternity waiting home in Buin, where women can stay in the last weeks of pregnancy, so that they are not far from medical services when they go into labour. More than 210 women gave birth in the health centre and 28 complicated cases were referred to Buka hospital.
The health centre is also being renovated. Laboratory services are being updated, and this will improve MSF’s support in the treatment and follow-up of tuberculosis (TB) patients. In 2011, staff cared for 44 TB patients.
When Bougainville experienced its first recorded cholera outbreak, in Buka, in April and May, MSF treated 521 patients.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 164 staff in Papua New Guinea. MSF first worked in the country in 1992.
Mona, 23 years old, Buin health centre
“I am eight months pregnant and I am here because I lost the babies of my first two pregnancies, when I tried to give birth at home. I want this baby so much. I will wait here until I am due, and I know that I can deliver my baby safely here at the health centre.”