Sick Go Hungry in PNG

14 05 2008

Despite Papua New Guinea’s various staple food crops, today’s urban residents mainly rely on rice as their staple diet. Apart from the urban households, rice also features as the base in most menus in almost all of the public and private run institutions like schools, colleges, correctional facilities and hospitals.

Lately I could not help but notice that news relating to the shortage of rice and food stocks all over the world has persistently maintained a regular presence on the pages of the morning dailies. Then the headlines “Sick go hungry” (The National, 07/05/2008) and “Medics attribute child deaths to lack of food” (The National, 09/05/2008) nailed home the stark reality of this bleak predicament that we are in.

The headlines mentioned above highlight only a fraction of the plight of our medical services in this country. Apart from limited supply of food, the delivery of basic medical supplies, drugs and anti-venoms scandals, deteriorating standards of the wards and basic medical facilities are all issues that have plagued the medical sector of recent times.

Amongst other basic rights of a human being, the right to adequate food, shelter and medical care (Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are the very fundamentals of life as we know. As such, when an organisation installed by the government of the common people is empowered to guard and protect the well-being of its citizens, it has to perform it diligently.

In failing, whether through mismanagement, ignorance or pure negligence, the party responsible for this tragedy is in direct violation of the basic human rights, as in the case of these children who sadly and unnecessarily lost their lives. They therefore should be held accountable for it and should be penalised accordingly.

Is this a preview of things to come? What can the authorities, policy makers and even us as individuals do about it? With the current rice(food) crisis, the rising cost of fuel and the pass-the-cost-to-the-consumer formula combined with an outdated minimum wage, there is a high probability of headlines like “Sick go hungry II” and “Sick go hungry III” appearing more often.

The government has to see this as a wake up call and has to ACT NOW to address the issue of food shortage and rising costs. Maybe our government can take a leaf out of the Indonesian, Fijian and the Tongan government’s initiative by temporarily reducing or even eliminating import duty on all basic food items coming into the country. At least that is one option worth considering.

Failure in doing so may see a breakdown in social order, eventually leading to mass abuse of human rights in the fight for survival, giving rise to a humanitarian crisis. Then a heading like “More Sick Starve to Death” may not even raise eyebrows, much less sell a paper.

Or is this a big call?



  • As a participating blogger in the Bloggers Unite for Human Rights campaign, I was planning to write about the abuse of “power” by some odd elements within the Royal Police Constabulary of Papua New Guinea, mainly on the juvenile sector of the population, as brought to the public’s attention and knowledge through the power of mass media. However, seeing the food shortage crisis as a more pressing issue, I decided upon this post.
  • To Give is Twice Blessed
    I would also like to make a special mention on the effort of some members of the community who selflessly and tirelessly put in their time, effort and resources into helping others through donations of cash, kind and human service. One such group are the United Church mothers who weekly make visiting rounds to the Port Moresby General Hospital as highlighted in the news report above. Your work is truly appreciated and God will immensely bless you.The effort of all medical personal all over the country as well as the world should not go without a mention too. For giving your best to saving lives; at often times with scant resources and at the expense of your own health and comfort. Thank you and God Bless.

Some Links worth checking out

  1. Human Rights Watch – Overview of various Human Rights issues in PNG
  2. Every Human Has Rights – Read and Sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  3. Amnesty International




7 responses

18 05 2008
Dave Donelson

Thanks for bringing this situation to the forefront.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds


22 05 2008

Insightful. There are such huge inequities among the peoples of the world.


22 05 2008

Thanks for the feedback.
Glad to help in bringing such issues to light.


17 06 2008
Jen O'Meara

Thank you for educating me on this issue. I am the CIO of YOBI, and would be honored if I could either use your post — or if you would make this post yourself — in our United Nations discussion forums. We are hoping to create a truly international discussion of the issues that face our global community, and your post here proves that you would be a valued participant in that discussion.


18 06 2008

Hi Jen,

I am trully honoured by your invitation to participate in such a forum as yours. You have my permission to use my post in Yobi World. Do pass the link back to me when done.

Hope to see you in yobi world.




24 08 2008

Hey Aiyah,

Thank you for that and for giving kudos to the Uniting Church mothers.

As always, love your blog!


5 09 2008

😉 thanks Aiyah,… sampla taim yumi mas luksave long hatwok blo ol liklik lain nabad…


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