What do infant mortality, promiscuity and tribal custom in Papua New Guinea have in common? A great deal if one takes a closer look at the history of Eli’s cousin – Kenny.
Kenny is staying with us for a few days after she gave birth to her 8th child last Sunday at Goroka General Hospital. I suggested to Eli that her cousin come and stay with us for few days for some rest, healthy food, old fashioned nurturing and a little recovery. Eli and Kenny are first cousins, Eli’s father (Jo) and Kenny’s mother (Anna) are blood brother and sister. Both mother and newly born are in good health and doing well considering the traumatic and particularly in PNG, the risky nature of birth.
Mortality in Papua New Guinea is in your face! A week doesn’t go by that someone we know or have met, family or otherwise, passes away. Young and old, male or female, the healthy, the sick, the meek and the wealthy, town or village based – whichever way you look at it – folks die rapidly around these parts.
The 24 hour baby girl in the above photo – has made it past “birth” !! A feat in itself. All she has to do now is make it through baby-hood, child-hood, teenage-hood, then into adult-hood and beyond. Through the various stages of their lives, the Papua New Guinean confronts many more obstacles and potentially fatal situations than the average westerner. This makes living and more importantly staying alive, an extremely challenging, often painful and costly journey for “planti ol hauslain na wantok bilong mi“.
The following statistics for Papua New Guinea were sourced from: UNICEF
|Infant mortality (under 1)||69||1990|
|Infant mortality rate (under 1)||50||2007|
|Annual no. of births||2007||190,000|
|Life expectancy at birth (years)||57|
|Total adult literacy rate (%)||2000–2007||58|
I’d like to share a little about Kenny’s history as it relates to the title of this post: “Infant Mortality, Promiscuity and Tribal Custom. Point form follows (perhaps we can cook up a list of “10 Things” here).
- Kenny is in her late 30’s.
- This is her 8th child.
- None of her children live with her (and have not for a long time).
- 4 of her 8 children have already died.
- The 8 children are from 5 different men.
- The 3 living children have been adopted out into different families and live in different places (Chuave, Kaubasis and Kundiawa).
- A family meeting and/or court was held a few months ago, whilst Kenny was pregnant and, it was decided (not by Kenny mind you) at this meeting that when the child was born he or she would be adopted out and go and live with the father of the child.
- Re previous point – the father of the child is now in a permanent relationship with another woman.
- This would suggest that Kenny had little say in what happened to her child after she was born.
- The few days with us, the rest and time shared with Mama Anna and Eli, Kenny has had a change of heart and is now adamant that she’s going to keep her little girl.
Here’s several worthwhile links if you’re after additional facts and figures on infant mortality in Papua New Guinea:
Been on the laptop far too long today so let’s wrap up this here chin-wag with the initial words to a song I can’t help but remember when ever I lay eyes on the miracle of a newly born:
George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone
On the day I was born, the nurses all gathered ’round
And they gazed in wide wonder, at the joy they had found
The head nurse spoke up, and she said leave this one alone
She could tell right away, that I was bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
B-B-B-B-Bad to the bone
Bad to the bone