Why is health care in danger in Papua New Guinea Highlands?

  • Tukupangi, Papua New Guinea
    Tukupangi, Papua New Guinea
    The wrecked rooms of a health-care clinic, destroyed in the midst of a tribal conflict. The clinic has stood abandoned for more than a year, with health-care workers too scared to stay in the village. Residents, including pregnant women and the elderly, are now forced to walk for several kilometres to get treatment.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC J. Boylan
  • Katiloma, Papua New Guinea
    Katiloma, Papua New Guinea
    A glimpse into an abandoned health-care clinic in Southern Highlands Province. The clinic was forced to close due to insecurity caused by a long-running tribal war.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC J. Boylan
  • Katiloma, Papua New Guinea
    Katiloma, Papua New Guinea
    Yuanis Yamu, a father of seven, was attacked in a vicious tribal conflict in 2013, but managed to flee the violence. Unable to be get treatment at his abandoned local health-care clinic, he spent a week trekking through the wilderness with slashes across his body, before he reached the Kudjip Hospital in neighbouring Jiwaka Province. While being treated in hospital, he heard the news that one of his sons had been killed in the fighting.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC J. Boylan
  • Tari, Papua New Guinea
    Tari, Papua New Guinea
    Health-care worker, Jessie Bluno, regularly treats victims of clan-based violence at his clinic in Hela Province, a region of Papua New Guinea rife with tribal conflict. While Jessie and his colleagues provide treatment to everyone affected by the conflict, this impartial approach is not always understood, or respected. Patients wounded in tribal warfare are treated quickly and sent home as soon as possible to prevent opposing tribes from attacking them at the clinic. Local fighters have also threatened Jessie and his colleagues not to treat wounded “enemies”, causing a general sense of fear and anxiety among workers at the clinic.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC K. Stevens
  • Katiloma, Papua New Guinea
    Katiloma, Papua New Guinea
    Rowena Kasunu, a missionary from the Kambia tribe in Southern Highlands Province, stands outside her village’s health-care clinic, which was attacked during a tribal fight and remains closed due to ongoing security issues. The health post used to service four tribes in the area. "Now, we have to walk for hours to find health care,” she said. “Those who are very sick and cannot walk, die in their homes.”
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC J. Boylan
19 May 2017

As tribal conflicts unfold across the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, safe access to health care is increasingly under threat. In conflict-affected parts of the country, such as Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces, community health-care clinics lay in ruins, and the staff have fled for their lives.

These ongoing attacks against the health care system are leaving thousands without adequate access to health care. Pregnant women and the elderly are being forced to walk for several kilometres to find treatment.

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