Papua New Guinea: real progress towards MDG 4 and real challenges

Int Health. 2010 Sep;2(3):186-96. doi: 10.1016/j.inhe.2010.05.001.


With a mortality rate in the under-5 s of 93 per 1000 live births reported in the 1996 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), Papua New Guinea (PNG) was at the time one of only four countries with stalled progress in child survival, and seemed destined to fail its national Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 target. However, accurate estimates have shown reductions in under-5 and infant mortality rates of 19% and 17% respectively, over 10 years from 1996 to 2006. In that period PNG adopted an integrated and coordinated approach to child health that includes all the essential interventions outlined in the Lancet's child survival series, under a framework consistent with the Western Pacific Regional Child Survival Strategy, associated with significant improvements in leadership and coordination of child health services by paediatricians at the provincial and national level. The reduction in child mortality since the mid-1990s is strong encouragement that such an approach can translate to real improvements. This paper outlines the recent advances in child health in PNG, identifying successful areas, and the challenges that lie ahead. There has been increased immunization coverage, introduction of vitamin A supplementation, bed-nets to prevent malaria, interventions to reduce mortality from acute respiratory infection, and improvements in the education of girls. These and improved leadership and coordination help to explain the recent significant gains in child survival.