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 Is An Isolated Group Of Islands

“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 194,000 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 are 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 six local doctors for a population of 194,000 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

  • There has been a big jump in diarrhoeal disease from 132 cases/1000 children under 5 in 2009 to 290 in 2013 – this is an indicator of water quality, food and personal hygiene. A large number of health facilities do not have running water to the delivery room.
  • Family planning is very poor, use of proper family planning has  decreased from 2012.
  • Only 52% of health centres received a supervisory visit by provincial or district personnel in 2013 – only a small improvement 4% over 3 years. The national average is 68%
  • NI has only two thirds of aid posts open – the national figure is the same. There has been no improvement since 2009.
  • Malaria: New Ireland has one of PNG’s highest rates of malaria incidence at 310 cases per 1000 people in 2013. The national average is 151 cases pet 1000 people.
  • Tuberculosis: TB is highly prevalent. There were 454 cases recorded in NI in 2013.

Key health indicators

Outpatients: Average number of visits per person per year.
NIP = 2.43 ( 2nd best province), PNG average = 1.25

Supervised births: Number of deliveries in a health facility.
NIP = 59% (5th best province); PNG average = 43%

Antenatal clinics: % of expectant mothers accessing at least one clinic.
NIP: 89% (3rd best province); PNG average = 64%

Low birth weight: % of infants born in health facilities, less than 2500 gm.
NIP = 6% (middle average rank), PNG average = 8%

Children under 5 malnutrition: clinic weight, <80% weight for age.
NIP = 25% (middle average rank), PNG average = 25%

Couple years contraception: rate per 1000 women of reproductive age.
NIP = 38% , PNG average = 43%

See more key health indicators and performance assessments in the Annual Sector Review, New Ireland Province, District Performance (2009-2013).

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
ADI volunteer doctor, Dr Rose Haywood training in PNG
Dr Roeland Krann In-Service training New Ireland
Dr De Boer and Dr Oosterhuis-at-Namatani PNG