Calls to Papua New Guinea’s only family violence hotline double

Papua New Guinea’s first national toll-free telephone counseling service – 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain (715 08000) – has received more than 15,000 calls in its third year of operation, more than double the calls received in year two.

The hotline was established by ChildFund, CIMC (FSVAC) and FHI 360 as a service for survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV).  It is estimated that over two-thirds of women experience violence in their relationships.

According to the latest hotline report, the highest proportion of calls in the last year came from NCD, Southern Highlands, Hela and Morobe provinces. After the Highlands earthquake in late February, the hotline was mobilised to provide trauma counseling and psychosocial support for people affected by the earthquake, which accounts for high call volumes from these areas.

Over half (56%) of callers were male who called the hotline not as survivors, but mostly as witnesses of gender-based violence or individuals seeking information or relationship advice. A small proportion of male callers identified as perpetrators.

The top presenting issues for callers in the last year were:

  • family violence, both physical and emotional, including intimate partner violence (IPV);
  • safety and security issues;
  • child welfare and child abuse.

The hotline aligns with the PNG Government’s National Strategy to prevent and respond to GBV, with Objective 3 focused on ensuring quality, continuity and sustainability of coordinated responses and service delivery for survivors of GBV.

“Providing telephone counseling and referring survivors of gender based violence to support services over the telephone is a unique service in PNG. The hotline is the first of its kind and has proven to be valuable to people experiencing family and sexual violence,” said Wesh Siku, ChildFund PNG’s senior project officer for 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain.

ChildFund Papua New Guinea Country Director Manish Joshi said: “The hotline has grown from strength to strength. It is remarkable to see how this service has reached across the 22 provinces in just three years despite the challenges.

“Our counsellors have done an outstanding job of helping more than 23,000 people through information, over the phone support and referrals.”

Since its launch three years ago, hotline counsellors have provided:

  • information to over 10,000 callers,
  • crisis counseling to over 4,000 callers,
  • safety planning to over 1,500 callers, and
  • suicide intervention to over 50 callers.

Over 7,000 callers have been referred to on-the-ground services, most commonly police, welfare agencies and face-to-face counseling services.

The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain is a partnership between ChildFund, CIMC (FSVAC) and FHI 360, supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme and USAID.

Download a copy of the report.

A report launched by ChildFund Australia today uncovers the tragically high rates of maternal mortality in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbour.

The report A National Health Crisis: Maternal Deaths in Papua New Guinea reveals that PNG is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a mother, where 1 in 120 women are losing their lives during pregnancy in PNG, compared to 1 in 9,000 in Australia.

The report states that the risk of maternal death is 35 times greater in Papua New Guinea than in Australia, and more than half of women in PNG have no choice but to give birth at home, due to the extreme shortage of hospitals, clinics and healthcare workers. In rural areas, rates are even higher.

Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said: “The contrast between Australia’s maternal health standards and that of our closest neighbour is stark but can be addressed.

“No woman should die giving birth. Yet in a country just 160km north of Australia, women are losing their lives every day during childbirth due to unsafe conditions and causes that are completely preventable.

“A particular concern is that, unlike other developing countries in the region, maternal mortality rates in Papua New Guinea appear to be deteriorating, not improving.

“Australia has the ability to help our neighbour in preventing these needless deaths through simple interventions like improving basic healthcare at the village level.” Mr Spence said.

“Currently rural health clinics, where they exist, are rudimentary, lack basic equipment and medicines, and are unable to service the vast health needs of impoverished communities.”

ChildFund Australia currently provides on the ground assistance for women and newborns in PNG in an effort to make childbirth safer for remote, rural communities.

“Our focus is on equipping frontline workers with the skills and resources they need to ensure more women and their newborns survive childbirth. We strongly encourage women to deliver at the nearest health facility where possible. But sadly, this is not feasible for most women in PNG.” Mr Spence said.

ChildFund Australia equips and trains dedicated volunteers at a village level to provide essential, basic health support to pregnant women in their community. This program aims to bridge the gap between remote villages and health clinics in major centres.

Volunteers receive training in how to assist birth delivery, health monitoring, advising pregnant mothers, and family planning. They are also trained in how to recognise the danger signs in pregnancy and childbirth, and when to refer their patients for specialist care.

ChildFund also provides volunteers and healthcare workers with birthing kits containing essential items that reduce the risks of infection.

A National Health Crisis: Maternal Deaths in Papua New Guinea Key Findings:

  • The risk of maternal death is 35 times greater in Papua New Guinea than in Australia.
  • As many as 80% of women in Central Province, where ChildFund works, have no choice but to give birth at home, increasing the risks to both mother and child.
  • Nationally, around half of all women will give birth without any form of skilled assistance, with this figure much higher in rural areas. In comparison, fewer than 1% of women in Australia are without proper care and support.
  • In PNG, there is an extreme shortage of hospitals, clinics and healthcare workers. Currently, there is one doctor for 18,000 people, compared to 1 for 300 in Australia. For every nurse in Papua New Guinea, there are 65 nurses in Australia.
  • Official data on maternal mortality in PNG is unreliable, as so many deaths in rural PNG are unaccounted for, however the available data suggests the situation is worsening.

Download the full report.