[World] Papua New Guinea: 92 unclaimed bodies buried in mass grave

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Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

A mass burial took place in Papua New Guinea in 2021 to alleviate pressure on the morgue

Unclaimed bodies found decaying in an outdoor shed have been buried alongside others in a mass grave in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby.

The burial took place after a viral social media video appeared to show excess bodies from the Port Moresby General Hospital morgue in the shed.

Of the 92 bodies buried – not all found in the shed – 40 of them were children.

The hospital said the government had allocated additional funding to the mortuary for 2023.

The viral video showed at least 10 bodies, wrapped in blankets, on bunks and in hospital beds in an outdoor shed.

It is currently the wet season in Papua New Guinea, with temperatures hovering around the high 20 to mid-30C.

Although the mortuary is based at the hospital, the local government authority, the National Capital District Commission, is responsible for it.

The morgue has struggled to keep up with demand for space as the population of Port Moresby has grown.

The president of the National Doctors’ Association, James Naipo, said that despite serving a population of more than one million people, the hospital had not been upgraded since it was designed to cater for 400,000.

“Right now, no extension to Port Moresby General Hospital has been done to cater for well over 1.3 million people in the city, in spite of availability of NCD Health services, private health services and military health services on the ground,” he said in a statement.

But the hospital said the morgue was overcrowded because of family members not collecting bodies in “a timely manner”.

“There is accumulation of bodies, more than is removed on a daily basis,” the hospital said in a Facebook post.

Mr Naipo said bodies might have been left because of economic difficulties felt by many across the country.

“Do not blame Port Moresby General Hospital management and its board for this situation crisis,” he wrote on Facebook.

The city’s deputy governor, Dadi Toka Jr, told the Guardian the public hospital needed a new mortuary facility and said the government was currently looking into options to expand it.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

A mass burial took place in December 2021 when the morgue became overwhelmed

Port Moresby is no stranger to mass burials. During the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 200 bodies were buried to relieve pressure on the overwhelmed morgue.

And in December 2021, 54 unclaimed bodies who had died from non-Covid related causes were also buried in a mass grave.

Papua New Guinea is the most populous Pacific Island nation and has experienced outbreaks of numerous communicable diseases including polio and HIV in recent years, according to Unicef.

Unicef says the nation’s infant mortality rate is currently 44 per 1,000 children.

That mortality rate is more than 10 times the UK’s infant mortality rate, which is 4.2 per 1000 deaths.

BBC has contacted the NCDC and the Papua New Guinea Health Minister for comment.


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