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Country Reports

Papua New Guinea Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to the South Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea (population 6.4 million) should note that the country is vulnerable to an array of risks.

POLITICS

Though Papua New Guinea peacefully achieved independence from Australia, the country experienced a violent separatist movement between 1989 and 2001 over the island of Bougainville; in 2001, a peace agreement ended the separatist violence (20,000 dead, 10 percent of the population of the province).

Bougainville now holds the status of Autonomous Region. A referendum concerning self-determination is set to be held by 2020. First elected in June 2010, John Momis, a former priest, was re-elected to the presidency of the Bougainville’s autonomous government in 2015.

The strained political environment (the “coexistence” of two different heads of government) fuels anxiety and tension, often leading to violent incidents (e.g. the military coup that took place on January 26, 2012) where use of force is not always proportional to the situation. Visitors should be aware of the political context before and during their stay in the country.

There is an increased risk of civil unrest and the possibility of violence throughout the country, including in Port Moresby, leading up to elections.

CRIME

It should be noted that crime rates are high throughout the country and sporadic outbreaks of violence occur from time to time. This is partially due to poor economic conditions that persist despite significant growth in recent years (11.1 percent in 2011, 9.1 percent in 2012, 5.4 percent in 2013; annual per capita income is 1200 euros; 30-50 percent of the population is below the poverty line). Violent crime constitutes a serious threat, especially in the capital Port Moresby. Carjackings and muggings occur in the capital and along the highway between the port city of Lae and Lae-Nadzab Airport.

The January 4, 2015, murder of a Singaporean businessman at his home in the Eriku neighborhood of Lae (Morobe province, second-largest city of Papua New Guinea; population 120,000) once again highlighted the ongoing security issues present in the country.

Tensions and violence between tribes are common. The most recent incidents occurred in late June 2015 between communities of the Eastern and Western Highlands at Mount Hagen. In spring 2016, violence was reported in several areas including Tari (Hela province), Goroka (Eastern Highlands province), Madang (Madang province).

It is advised that foreigners avoid rural areas and isolated areas (parks, golf courses, beaches).

The Papuan government declared a state of emergency in late March 2014 in the Porgera region (Enga province) due to fighting against artisanal miners on illegal mining sites. Police and military forces were deployed to the region and were responsible for the destruction (by fire) of 200 homes in the village of Wingima on June 6; thousands of residents fled the area. Due to poor security conditions in the city of Lae (Morobe province), police advised the local population to stay home after nightfall.

SOCIAL UNREST

Protests are regularly organized and can quickly devolve into violence; stay away from all large gatherings.

INFRASTRUCTURE

There are very few hotels or guesthouses outside of Port Moresby, Lae, and Madang.

TRANSPORTATION

Travel within Papua New Guinea is difficult due to the high levels of insecurity that prevail across the country. All travel is risky, even during the day, particularly in the Highlands region.

From October 13-28, 2011, the entire Airlines PNG fleet was grounded for security and quality inspections.

It should also be noted that the use of public transportation is not advisable as it is generally unreliable, dilapidated, and dangerous. If traveling by air within the country, note that delays are frequent.

HEALTH

Healthcare in the country is poor. Services are limited, particularly outside Port Moresby, and medical supplies are frequently in short supply.

Health conditions are also worrying. Diarrheal diseases are common, mostly due to the poor quality of the tap water and a lack of public health initiatives. Rates of malaria are high in zones located below an elevation of 1800 meters; transmission occurs throughout the year with a peak of cases in February, March, October, and November. Malaria constitutes one of the leading causes of death in the country. Dengue fever is also present in all zones below 1000 meters, with the highest rates of transmission in December-February and May-September. Mosquitoes bring with them a host of other diseases including Ross River fever, Murray Valley encephalitis, and Japanese encephalitis (particularly in the west, as well in Gulf and Milne Bay provinces). The spread of HIV throughout the country is accelerating and usually accompanies a large number of tuberculosis cases. The French government advises travelers to subscribe to insurance that covers medical fees and medical repatriation.

NATURAL RISKS

Papua New Guinea is located within an active seismic zone. Several earthquakes have occurred in recent years, including a 6.8 magnitude tremor that struck the west coast of Bougainville Island on December 7, 2014. The epicenter was located approximately 100 km southwest of Bougainville (Buka Island).

Earthquakes sometimes produce tsunamis, as was the case in July 1998 when two earthquakes ‒ each with magnitudes of 7.1 ‒ triggered a tidal wave that hit the northern coast, destroying seven coastal villages and leaving 2000 dead and 6000 homeless. There are also active volcanoes present in the country in the township of Rabaul, on Manam and Bougainville islands, and in West New Britain province.

Monsoon season lasts from December until March in the northwest and from May until October in the southeast. Heavy rains can lead to flooding and landslides (particularly on the highway passing through the Highlands leading from Lae to Mount Hagen). Cyclone Guba, which hit Oro and Milne Bay provinces (far east of the country) in November 2007, left 150 dead and tens of thousands homeless.

Climate

Papua New Guinea has a hot and humid climate, tempered by trade winds. It rains almost all year long with a respite from June to September (the dry season) and a peak of precipitation between December and March. Temperatures tend to be cooler in the mountains.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 675 Police: 000 Fire Dept.: 000 Ambulance: 000

Electricity

Voltage: 240 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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