Papua New Guinea.
Recent study by aid agency #ChildFund finds Australia’s neighbour — Papua New Guinea (PNG) as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a mother. It shows women in PNG are more than 35 times more likely to lose their lives during pregnancy than in Australia.
“No woman should die giving birth. Yet in a country just 160km north of Australia, women are losing their lives every day during childbirth due to unsafe conditions and causes that are completely preventable,” said ChildFund chief executive Nigel Spence.
Roughly 1,500 women die in childbirth every year in PNG, and infant mortality rates are similarly high — 45 babies out of every 1,000 die. (In comparison, in Australia, only three babies die out every 1,000 live births.)
UN figures show PNG’s newborn, child and maternal death rates are the highest in the Oceania region.
The country’s shockingly high maternal and infant mortality rates go against an international trends where the number of children dying and the number of women dying of complications during pregnancy have dropped significantly.
Health groups and doctors believe PNG has such high mortality rates because almost half of the births take place at home in rural villages.
Several efforts have been made by the government of PNG and international health organizations to mitigate against this alarmingly high maternal and child mortality.
The PNG government is proposing drastic measures that would effectively ban home births, making it compulsory for women to give birth in a clinic or hospital.
“Kangaroo mother care” — which involves putting the baby on the chest, skin to skin, to warm it up — is gaining more recognition, and there is also the use of baby bracelets — a simple device that beeps when a newborn baby’s temperature drops to dangerous levels, is helping to save babies.
Papua New Guinea is a large island off the continent of Australia. It is the world’s second-largest island, after Greenland, and the largest wholly or partly within the Southern Hemisphere and Oceania. Lying just south of the equator, 160km north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is part of a great arc of mountains stretching from Asia, through Indonesia and into the South Pacific. It has a population of 8 million.
Cover Photo: A lil’ bit of pickle in PNG