PNG health statistics

h-health-in-pngAustralia’s nearest neighbour, yet our standards of health care are world’s apart…

(Please note this page is being updated with the most recent statistics)

    • PNG has one doctor per 17,068 people, compared to 20 per 20,000 in Fiji and one per 302 in Australia;
    • Health expenditure is US$49 per capita, compared to $107 in the Solomon Islands, $154 in Fiji and $4,775 in Australia (1);
    • Life expectancy is 62 for males and 65 for females (2), compared to 81.7 in Australia (3);
    • PNG has 0.58 health workers per 1,000 people – WHO recommends 2.5 per 1,000 simply to maintain primary care; 4
    • 40% of people live on less than US$1.25 a day  (5).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), PNG has the worst health status in the Pacific region. PNG ranks 157 out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, worse than Bangladesh and Myanmar. Australia ranks 2nd.

For a population of more than 7 million, PNG has less than 400 doctors of which only 51 work outside Port Moresby, despite 85% of people living in rural areas. That’s one doctor per 17,068 people, compared to one per 302 in Australia.

There’s also a critical shortage of health workers – just 0.58 per 1,000 people, compared to WHO’s standards which specify 2.5:1,000 simply to maintain primary care . Not surprisingly, PNG ranks in the bottom 15 countries in Save the Children’s Health Workers Reach Index.

Some of the most troubling health statistics include:

    • Maternal mortality: PNG’s maternal mortality ratio is worse than India’s, with almost half of all women giving birth without the assistance of a doctor or midwife.
    • Infant mortality: 5.5% of babies will die before age 2 (UNDP).
    • Communicable diseases: Tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases cause 62% of deaths nationwide.
    • Water-borne diseases: Only 33% of rural people have access to clean water, a major factor in the 2009 cholera outbreak that affected 14,000 people, whilst diarrhoea is the seventh bigger killer.

PNG’s leading causes of mortality and morbidity

    • Mortality: Perinatal conditions, pneumonia, malaria, TB, meningitis, heart diseases, diarrhoea, diseases of the digestive system
    • Morbidity (inpatient care): TB, normal deliveries, pneumonia, malaria, perinatal conditions, direct obstetric causes, diarrhoea, diseases of the digestive system, open wounds and injury to blood vessels, anaemia

Maternal health

Women in PNG are particularly disadvantaged, as evidenced by poor maternal health and lack of access to family planning. The maternal mortality ratio is 230 per 100,000 (HDR Report 2014), whilst doctors and other health professionals from the PNG National Department of Health, Population Services International and more estimate that least five women die in childbirth every day .

      • 42% of women do not give birth at a health facility or hospital
      • 22% of pregnant women do not receive any formal antenatal care
      • 35.7% of women use contraception
      • 10% of all deaths in PNG are due to perinatal conditions
      • 4.6 is the average number of children per woman

    Babies and children

    Children are five times more likely to die in countries hit by a health worker crisis, and PNG is no exception. In 2005, 14,000 of 15,000 child deaths in the Pacific region occurred in PNG (UNICEF). Pneumonia and diarrhoea, together with underlying malnutrition, are the most important causes of post-neonatal death in young children in PNG.


    Malaria is endemic in every province in PNG, with an average of 1.5-1.8 million suspected cases of malaria seen at health care facilities annually.

      • Malaria incidence is 151 cases per 1,000 people in PNG in 2013 (2014 PNG Health Sector Performance Annual Review)
      • 38.5 deaths due to malaria per 100,000 people (2012 WHO PNG Statistical Profile)
      • #1 cause of all outpatient visits (2008) and #3 cause of death (2008), with a mortality rate of 9.7 per 100,000 population


    TB is a major public health concern in PNG.

      • 534:100,000 prevalence rate (WHO PNG Health Profile 2014)
      • 19,689 notifications of TB (all forms) in PNG in 2012 (2014 PNG Health Sector Performance Annual Review)
      • #2 cause of in-patient bed occupancy in hospitals in 2008
      • TB poses a serious threat to HIV positive people (TB-HIV co infection)

    HIV and AIDS

    Papua New Guinea has the highest rate of HIV/AIDs in the Pacific, with overall adult prevalence at nearly 1% of the population (USAID PNG Profile)

      • 0.94% prevalence rate among pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in 2013 (2014 PNG Health Sector Performance Annual Review)
      • 13.6 deaths due to HIV/AIDS per 100,000 people (2012 WHO PNG Statistical Profile)
      • High incidence of sexual assaults on women contributes to their risk of catching HIV or another STI.

    Filariasis (elephantiasis)

    Filariasis is endemic to PNG, however, the extent of the problem is unknown. Mass Drug Administration to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis was conducted in only a few provinces due to insufficient funding, and has now been taken over with DEC salt trials in selected provinces.

    In the Pacific region, PNG represents 70% of the total population at risk of being infected with filariasis.


    Leprosy has re-emerged in five provinces including National Capital District, Central, Gulf, Western and West Sepik. The Leprosy Mission International estimates there are over 1,000 cases nationwide.

    Health and sanitation

    In 2009 PNG was affected by a cholera outbreak that spread across eight provinces with approximately 14,000 cases reported in health facilities and communities.

      • 33% of people in rural areas use an improved water drinking source
      • 40% of people nationwide use an improved water drinking source
      • 41% of people in rural areas use an improved sanitation facility

    Non communicable diseases

    The incidence of non-communicable diseases in PNG is rising, creating the double burden observed in most developing countries.

    This includes tobacco and alcohol related illnesses, diabetes and hypertension, and cancer (especially oral cancer caused by chewing betel and tobacco, and cervical cancer which claimed the lives of 900 women in 2011).


    Please email for a full list of sources.