mgc in motion > papua new guinea > social issues

social issues

The project area covers 7000 km and encompasses 33,000 people. There are 11 different languages spoken in the project area. The security threat is very high and constant strikes and defiance against the company are understandably shown.

The cultural shock for some of these people whe have gone from living in the rainforest to having a job, money and modern clothes is quite a challenge. The mobile phone has become the new craze of this country, everybody has one even those who lives in the forest will go to the towns to charge them up. There are numerous tribal clashes causing additional problems with some tribes not having spoken to each other for years. In the country there are over 750 known languages. Courtesy and politeness are very important. Not saying good morning is considered an rude. It is said that the change in character can be immediate and dangerous.

The women are given away by their Father who decides who they will marry it generally comes down to how many pigs they have. Pigs in PNG are a very important animal and this dictates the wealth of the family. Giving the women away is called ‘Brideprice’. Normally a number between 10 and 15 pigs would be given for one women. Each pig fetching a price of about £250. So roughly £3,000 for a women to marry. There is no limit to how many wives a man may have with 2 to 3 being the average. The famous Kina shell plays a large part in the ‘Brideprice’ and 10 to 20 of these shells would be given to the bride to wear around her head during the marriage ceremony. This was the currency before coins and notes.

This project has created very high expectations with the communities although not everyone will be involved equally, which is a difficult balance to acheive. The expectations are for cash, jobs, community projects and other benefits. This often results in immigration, disappointment, resettlement and pay-back eventually to those who have not benefitted. So very difficult issues have to be resolved. When these expectations have not been met problems have resulted in manifestations as blockades of whole camps where no one can leave for days, hi-jacking of equipment, threats, assaults, sexual assaults and murder. One of these incidents included a truck rolling over and killing the operator. The whole family then arrived and wanted to be reimbursed financially. The culture certainly in the highlands is to fight first then talk.

Health here is a challenging issue due to the conditions being so difficult. Malaria is taken very seriously (Plasmodium Malaria) we were given one hours power point presentation on things like this for example:
A – Awareness
B – Bites
C – Pills
D – Diagnosis

A special malarial diagnoses and curative kit is given to everybody leaving the project are with special notes to give to you local doctor. This includes giving oneself a blood test to see if you have contracted the disease if you have there is also a treatment to start straight away. Prevention includes the form of pills no skin uncovered at any time when outside, otherwise long trousers and long sleeve shirts with malarial pills and spray to use at all times.

Malaria kills about 40 million people worldwide a year. If you take all the countries in the world with their problems with people dying for one reason or another put all of these together in the world including all conflicts as well. Malaria still beats the figure of people dying. So a major world killer not really appreciated in non tropical countries. There are about 3,000 species of mosquito of which 450 are Anopheles spp of mosquito which give malaria to people.

Aids is another big issue and it is not known currently now many people are suffering from Aids in PNG. The project gives out free protection (condoms) due to the numbers of men working in and around the camps. Still on payday the number of females increases around the camps due to the obviouse reasons of the many having money.

Leeches are also a problem with them being picked up on a very regular basic. They used to crawl up my legs when I used to sit down in the forest for a rest. There is another type of leech that crawls up the body and into the eye which is very difficult to deal with. We were continually checking each others faces. They are very small and you cannot really feel them on your face or see them that easily. They require surgical operation once they have entered the eye. At the end of each day a close inspection of your body was needed to take place to make sure you had no additional guests visiting.

Dengue Fever is endemic in PNG and causes severe illness and can lead to death. Its is caused by a special species of mosquito that carries the virus. Between 50 and 100 million people are killed wordwide each year from contracting Dengue Fever. There is no real cure for it.

No alcohol is allowed in the camps and no drugs. There is a thriving black market due to the large number of personnel being employed by the company. Law enforcement is nonexistent so if you are stopped on the road by a blockade you have to sit and wait it out while the CLO (local community representatives) they go and discuss as to why the work has been stopped by the locals. The (clo's) represent the company and we wait until they have sorted a financial deal out with the landowners then we can continue to work.

Dangerous Animals
There are host of dangerous animals in the rainforest to contend with. Crocodiles being particularly dangerous in the lowlands and swampy areas where they are actively aggressive in attacking people.

Snakes are very common in the rainforest and some of the most dangerous in the world are found in PNG.

They are a very real and present threat working in the Forest and Great care needs to be taken. Various precaution should be taken such as making a lot of noise and wearing snake gaiters.

Some of the dangerouse species found in Papua New Guinea are:-

1. Papuan Taipan (Oxyuranus Scutellatus) 3.4 metres in length the most venomous in PNG

2. New Guinea Death Adder Less than 1 metre (Acanthophis spp) Exceptionally well camouflaged in leaf litter in rainforest, causes paralysis

3. Small-eyed Snake (Micropechis Ikaheka) 2.1 metres causes bleeding, paralysis and muscle damage leading to kidney failure

4. Papuan Blacksnake (Pseudechis Papuanus) 2.3 metres causes paralysis

5. Common Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) 2.5 metres extremely dangerous snake victims are likely to collapse and die within minutes