About New Ireland PNG and health issues faced by ADI Volunteer Doctors

Some of the Local New Ireland kids encountered by ADI Volunteer doctors

New Ireland Province 2019

 “Power, running water and sanitation are lacking throughout the rural areas of this province. Hand washing, sterilising or even cleaning of instruments is a challenge and often not possible. Toileting is still often in the nearby bush, rivers or sea.”

– Dr Bruce Slonim, volunteer

New Ireland Province is an isolated group of islands in north-east PNG. Home to approximately 243,035 people, New Ireland’s diverse geography includes tropical beaches, coastal lowlands, mountains and inland plateaus spread over 9,600 square kilometres of land and 230,000 square kilometres of sea. The main island is called New Ireland (320 kilometres long and 10-40 kilometres wide).

New Ireland is divided into two districts: Kavieng is the provincial administrative headquarters and has an airport, seaport and hospital; Namatanai has a secondary hospital, which is rather rundown and lacks a local doctor. A sealed road runs from Kavieng to Namatanai (260km). Travelling to outlying islands and atolls requires a boat and can take up to eight hours.

Thirty-two percent of the population is in paid employment and 68% live a subsistence lifestyle, mainly by selling local produce (betel nut, food crops, fish, etc.) at local markets. Only 15% of the land is arable. Many also depend on the sea for their livelihood.

Throughout the province electricity is produced using generators, however approximately 88% of households use wood fuel (as well as kerosene, gas or generators). Most rural communities lack power and running water.

Piped town water and modern sanitation is available in the main towns, but the more remote communities use dug out toilets, tanked rainwater or fresh water streams for drinking, cooking and washing.

Health in New Ireland

“I saw a few children who had become partly paralysed after an attack of cerebral malaria and several who had developed epilepsy after cerebral malaria or meningitis.”

– Dr Liz Scott, volunteer

New Ireland Province has just fourteen local doctors for a population of 243,035 people, with all doctors based at Kavieng General Hospital on the main island even though 91% of people live in faraway rural communities.

Main Health Concerns

  • New Ireland’s Health worker to population ratio is 0.8 per 1000
  • New Ireland’s Provincial Ranking, based on health indicators is number 8 out of 22, with the national average being 82, and New Ireland is just above it.
  • New Ireland has one of PNG’s highest rates of malaria incidence but has decreased overall since 2013 from 310 cases to 220 cases per 1000 people in 2018. The national average has declined from 151 cases in 2013 to 105 cases per 1000 people in 2018.
  • There were only 100 reported cases of Tuberculosis per 100,000 populations. Tuberculosis statistics are based on ‘notified’ cases, there may be under-reporting in some provinces.
  • New Ireland has 80% of aid posts open while nationally 74% of aid posts around all of Papua New Guinea are open.

Key Health Indicators

Indicators as reported in NDoH 2019 SPAR Namatanai District Kavieng District
Outpatient Visits 1.9 1.2
Facility Births 45% 42%
Antenatal Care 60% 46%
Family Planning 82 25
Low birth weight 5.7% 11.3%
Malnutrition 17.1% 19.8%
Measles Vaccine 41% 35%
Outreach Clinics 46 25

 

ADI Doctor Stories

Matt Kelly boarding a plane to Kiunga Western Provinc
ADI Dr Yen Lim heading out to Patrol in New Ireland PNG
Dr Penny Uther, New Ireland, April 2018
ADI Dr Susanne Leenders and baby in Namatanai PNG