THE headline on the front page of the Post-Courier last Wednesday, Malnutrition Kills, was accompanied by Unicef statistics which are terrifying in their implications.
One revealed that 45% of Papua New Guinea’s children have stunted growth.
This means that, because they are malnourished from birth, almost half of PNG’s young people do not grow to reach their proper size and strength.
It also means that their brains are undernourished and so do not reach their full level of mental ability.
A report published last year by Australian and PNG researchers showed that about 80% of Papua New Guineans are functionally illiterate and uneducated. Now we are told that almost half of our children are growing up physically and mentally retarded.
Of course, the children who are suffering from malnutrition are not “our” children. They are not the children of the blessed 20% or so of the population who are educated, employed, and able to take care of themselves and share in the increasing wealth of this lucky country.
The one child in 13 who dies before the age of five; the 14 in every hundred who suffer “wasting” diseases and die by the age of six or seven, and the rest who grow up mentally and physically retarded are the children of the 80% of the population who are illiterate, uneducated, and in many cases suffer from extreme poverty.
This situation should be completely intolerable and unacceptable to every thinking citizen of PNG.
There should be an outcry from every corner of the country for a war on poverty and ignorance. But, of course, it won’t happen. The poor have no voice.
This 80% of the population have little or no access to radio or television, and cannot read the papers - which are not written for them in any case.
And you will not meet any of them on Facebook or Twitter. It is so easy to ignore them, and to live our lives as if they didn’t exist.