Every Papua New Guineans believe in sorcery and witchcraft, no matter how educated they are! And this is from experience. Do I believe in sorcery and witchcraft? Let’s just say I believe in Science.
Frankly, I believe the health sector in PNG and particularly the professional health organisations like the PNG Medical Society or the other professional specialist organisations are not doing anything to combat sorcery related killings and torture in PNG. In fact, health workers in PNG are partly to be blamed for what is happening. How do I do know?
Let’s face it, rural health services are non-existent in most parts of PNG. So when someone comes in very sick and the health care worker is not sure of the diagnosis, they commonly tell the relatives – “em samting blo ples” (meaning = it’s caused by black magic). This has been going on for many years in rural PNG, and even in major hospitals in PNG. I think the health care workers just gave up educating their patients on the cause of diseases, ie, the medical science of disease. And over time, this was accepted without question by illiterate and partially educated rural people and because it was coming from a professional health worker so it must be true! That black magic is real and it can cause disease in people. So overtime, people in rural PNG accept the status quo and don’t bother going to health centres for treatment (besides it may be closed 80% of the time! Because of corruption, lack of finance etc etc..).
With so much being reported in the main stream media and social media about sorcery related killings and torture in rural PNG, I have not heard or read about what health professionals in PNG have decided to do. The focus seems to be on legislature changes related to sorcery and witchcraft. And bring the perpetrators to justice. Yes that’s good. But what about on going education and awareness of diseases, what causes them and that disease conditions are preventable and treatable. I think this is an important long-term strategy to prevent sorcery and witchcraft related killings and torture in PNG.
Now to the role of forensic pathology in sorcery and witchcraft related killings and torture in PNG. The call to make sorcery and witchcraft related killings to undergo mandatory forensic autopsy must be supported by the wider healthcare sector in PNG. This will enhance the long-term strategy of educating and public health awareness among the people.