Papua New Guinea releases dozens of prisoners to search for food after shortages
In a desperate measure, authorities of a jail in Papua New Guinea released dozens of prisoners to forage for food after two months of severe shortages. This happened in the Boram prison in Wewak, East Sepik, which holds 290 men awaiting their trial. Of all the released prisoners, one didn’t come back.
In an interview with The National, the prisons manager, Joe Imini said that the shortages were primarily due to a delay in the release of funds for monthly rations by the government in Port Moresby. The situation was getting unsustainable and desperate times called for desperate measures.
The Boram prison used to receive $18,000 per month to feed its inmates. However, in April this year, the amount was reduced by more than half to a mere $7,000. This led to severe shortages since $7,000 was not enough to feed around 290 inmates. Hence, as a desperate solution, 35 prisoners were sent outside the walls of the prison to collect food.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition is common in Papua New Guinea. Also, UNICEF has described it as a ‘silent emergency’ and the root cause of child deaths in the country. UNICEF also reported that children and adults were more likely to die of treatable diseases like diarrhoea and chest infection in Papua New Guinea since malnutrition has become multi-generational.
According to Majella Hurney, the Head of Policy & Advocacy at Save the Children Australia (SCA), Australia, Papua New Guineas’ largest bilateral donor, directs only 0.1 percent of its aid towards nutritional programmes. This needs to increase.
She adds, “Our report shows that nutrition interventions have comparatively high economic and social returns on investment. It is critical to invest in human development as a foundation for inclusive and sustainable economic development. Otherwise, malnutrition will continue to undermine the great human and economic potential of our nearest neighbour.”