We need to invest in teachers to achieve quality education
Inspector Metau tells: The crimes & non-crimes of PNG

30,000 TB cases a year makes PNG a regional health issue

Lady Roslyn  Morauta
Lady Roslyn Morauta - "8.5 million people face very serious development and public health challenges"


PORT MORESBY - Investing in health is one of the best ways to build a better future. Healthy societies are more stable and equal and have stronger and more productive economies.

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, improving public health is a global common good.

Because microbes do not stop at borders, an infectious disease threat in any corner of the world can be a threat everywhere. No one is safe until everyone is safe.

Take the example of Papua New Guinea, where I have lived and worked for many years.

Since the turn of the century, there has been significant progress in the fight against HIV and malaria in PNG.

Investments by international donors and partnerships with faith-based organisations and other civil society groups have reduced the number of malaria cases and deaths through national mosquito net distribution campaigns.

The country has also made big strides against HIV by making lifesaving treatment available to thousands of HIV-positive people.

The achievements are impressive if you think of them in the context of PNG, a country with over 800 languages and cultures, high illiteracy rates, very few roads and far-flung rural communities.

However, PNG’s 8.5 million people continue to face very serious development and public health challenges.

We have the highest malaria burden in the world outside Africa, with the entire population at risk, affecting primarily pregnant women and children under five.

We also have the highest number of new tuberculosis cases in the Pacific Island region – around 30,000 new cases each year, with TB now the leading cause of death in PNG.

We have alarming rates of drug-resistant TB, a more aggressive form that does not respond to existing medications, resulting in fewer treatment options and increasing mortality rates for illnesses that would ordinarily be curable – including TB.

With PNG only four kilometers from Australia at its nearest point, failure to address TB or an outbreak of any infectious disease is a threat to the health and economic security of my native Australia.

TB is airborne and highly contagious, so a raging TB epidemic could easily destabilise the Asia Pacific region. One weak link can affect everyone.

Such health challenges are not unique to our region. Globally, 10 million people fell ill with TB in 2017, making TB the world’s deadliest infectious disease.

Drug-resistant TB is part of a growing global problem posing a potentially catastrophic risk to global health security. In 2017, there were approximately 558,000 cases of drug-resistant TB.

While causing tragic deaths and suffering, infectious diseases can also damage economic growth.

The Economist Intelligence Unit predicted recently that drug-resistant TB will cost the global economy approximately US$17 trillion by 2050 if the problem is not addressed.

Addressing these regional and global health challenges requires partnership.

After years of remarkable progress in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria, new threats have pushed the world off track from meeting the Sustainable Development Goal target of ending the epidemics by 2030.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has played a vital role in global health, supporting programs to save millions of lives and investing US$366 million in 14 island countries in the Pacific region, supporting strong efforts by Australia’s bilateral investments to build resilient and sustainable systems for health.

The Global Fund model increases accountability and shared responsibility and helps countries on their road to self-reliance by fostering domestic investments in health.

I have witnessed first-hand the transformation that investments by the Global Fund partnership have brought in Papua New Guinea.

But we need to keep working hard.

Papua New Guinea’s health system is very weak.

We also need to continue investing and working with our partners to address the high rates of gender-based violence and promote gender equality.

Just a few months from now, the Global Fund will hold its next replenishment conference, with the goal of raising at least US$14 billion for the next three years.

The Global Fund is calling on the world to step up the fight to maintain the progress that has been achieved through partnership, innovation and effective interventions and to end the three diseases by 2030.

Australia is a longstanding partner of the Global Fund and has invested heavily in fighting diseases and in supporting countries in the Indo-Pacific region to prepare for emerging health threats.

This week, when Sydney hosts the first International Global Health Security Conference, it will be a great opportunity to stress how we all need global health security, and share responsibility.

Our global health security is only as strong as our weakest link.

Lady Roslyn Morauta, vice-chair of the Board of the Global Fund, is visiting Australia to attend the International Global Health Security Conference


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Catherina Habon

TB is an outcome of other social indicators not addressed.

Those in power can choose to improve people's living standards (through appropriate policies, programs and funding) and take back PNG from TB. Its one of the most easily preventable disease but yet our people die from it.

How? Prevention!

Immunisation - BCG for all newborns and increase immunisation coverage for all under fives.

Better housing with clean water- when you trace back where the bulk of the infected population lives, it's mostly those residing in settlements/villages where houses are overcrowded and have poor ventilation and where clean water is a scarce resource.

Nutrition - Good food and a balanced diet - PNG is blessed and we have plenty of good food.

Treatment - those on treatment should faithfully complete their medication because TB is curable.

Corney Korokan Alone

There is always something bad and contagious about some stuff cited for any third world country in the world as irrefutable and undeniable.

The world trumpeted loud to the roof tops about Ebola in West Africa and some foreign agents entering the border in the United States.

Then the expert organizations are always referenced as helping hands standing ready to eradicate those problems.

The world is increasingly growing curious and wonder whether some of these are false alarms that hides behind some insidious machinations

Paul Oates

The real weakness, as you already know Lady Roslyn, was at the top of the so called PNG Health Department.

This form of disease starts at the apex of the food chain and 'trickles down' to those susceptible to infection at lower levels.

There is only one way to eradicate this disease and that is to stop it before it spreads. Cut the infection out at its heart and you stop it from infecting many others.

The remedy is in the hands of PNG's new PM.

Marasin istap yet lo han bilo PM.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)