Priest - Poverty is High in PNG

        By Maureen Gerawa - Post Courier

The number of vulnerable people, including widows and orphans in this country is increasing with no sign of Government support, says a Catholic priest Fr Jude Ronayne-Forde.

While responding to comments at the launch of this year's State of the World's Children Report yesterday, he told a small gathering, that while there were many good things about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and how this was being implemented through the various departments, his experience showed otherwise.

In the past 10 years, Fr Jude's work has extended to those living with HIV, including women & children and found that the number of widows, single mothers and orphans, especially in Port Moresby is increasing with no Government support in place for these people.

Fr Jude was speaking during a panel discussion in which he informed the Education Secretary Dr Joseph Pagelio that while the Universal Basic Education Plan was to be implemented starting next year, some schools will start classes under the trees.

He questioned whether there would be enough classrooms and other facilities built before the children arrive early next year in large numbers to find themselves without classrooms or desks.

In reference to Dr Pagelio's statement that 47 per cent of school-age children were not in school, Fr Jude said these children could not afford school fees and other educational costs. Last year, Fr Jude said his organisation sent some children to school, paying their school fees and buying their uniforms, but the number of children it is supporting has increased drastically which he said showed that poverty in this country was escalating and needed government intervention.

In regards to the speech by the Health Secretary Dr Clement Malau about his department's efforts to put up community health posts to address some of the health issues in the country, Fr Jude said unlike when he first arrived to work in a rural area in East Sepik province, the delivery of health services in this country had gobne from good to worse.

"We can't get medicines these days. What you get is a prescription so people give up and go, and when they come back, things are the same."

Fr Jude is the co-ordinator of the HIV/AIDS program with the Catholic Diocese of Port Moresby which has now included orphans and widows in its program.



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