20 Aug 2010

Calls for more effort to deal with PNG's urban poor

3:03 pm on 20 August 2010

A population and development specialist in Papua New Guinea says the failure of projects to improve the livelihood of rural communities has led to rapid population growth in urban areas, causing poverty.

Dr Israel Sembajwe's comments follow the release of a book titled Urban Poverty in Papua New Guinea, which details research carried out by the National Research Institute.

Beverley Tse has more.

According to Donovan Storey's book, population growth in Port Moresby is at an alarming 4.6 percent compared with 2.2 percent for the national population.

People in rural areas who are lacking sufficient healthcare, education and employment, are flocking to towns and cities with the misconception that their livelihoods would improve.

Gracelyn Meauri of the Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights says many of these people end up living in squatter settlements.

"If the services that people need are accessed at the rural level, I don't think there would be a need for them to come into town. Because some come into town for medical reasons because they can't access these facilities there for health. And they come and they stay on. And they probably don't have money to go back."

Gracelyn Meauri says clean water is one of the greatest needs, and she is calling on health authorities to address a hygiene problem to prevent the spread of disease.

Dr Israel Sembajwe from PNG's National Research Institute says about twenty new urban settlements are established in Port Moresby each year to accommodate new numbers of people migrating from rural areas.

He says when people's expectations of a better life are not met, they are driven deeper into poverty.

Men fall back on drugs and crime and then exercise violence within the communities where they live. Then you find the young people, especially the young boys also going into drugs, crime, alcohol.

Dr Israel Sembajwe says there are also serious consequences for women and young girls who are being forced into the sex trade, leading to high numbers of unplanned pregnacies in the poorest areas.

He says the solution is a fast political commitment to efficiently implement aid programmes to tackle the problem of urban poverty.

The Governor of the National Capital District Powes Parkop says progress is being made to improve access to finance by creating opportunities for people to generate income through sustainable business enterprises.

We also have short term training courses so they can have the excuse to enable themselves to develop the capacity to sustain themselves. But of course poverty is not just about access to finance or lack of finance. It's also about, you know, having information, being able to be literate, you know, being able to read and write and know what to do. And there are so many other aspects and challenges relating to this.

Powes Parkop says the NCD government is also working on intervention schemes to improve the living standards of those dwelling in the urban settlements.