Papua New Guinea IDP Figures Analysis

IDMC estimates that there were at least 7,500 people displaced as a result of conflict or violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG) as of February 2015. In addition, at least 15,000 people were displaced by natural hazard-related disasters. The average length of displacement is 7.5 years.


IDMC’s estimate is based on figures collected among various stakeholders met during a mission to PNG in October 2014, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), local authorities, provincial disaster management representatives and a relocation project coordinator. Other sources include Amnesty International (AI) and the media.   

The number of people newly displaced by conflict in 2014 is unknown. According to data gathered by IOM between October 2013 and June 2014, a total of 1,800 people were displaced in 7 conflict-related incidents while 14 disasters displaced some 17,000 people (IOM, on file with IDMC, 6 August 2014). IOM collected its figures based on its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) methodology (IDMC interviews, October 2014).   

Conflict-related displacement

IDMC’s estimate of 7,500 IDPs includes 4,000 people displaced by ethnic clashes in May 2010 in Bulolo district, Morobe province and who have since remained living in a camp in Bulolo town. Another 300 people, displaced in September 2013, also by ethnic clashes have since been living in an informal settlement close to the Bulolo river. The sources for these two figures are the Bulolo IDP camp coordinator and a representative of the Morobe provincial disaster office (IDMC mission, October 2014; PNG Loop, 27 December 2013)).

In Kagua Erave district, Southern Highlands Province, some 2,000 people forced to flee their homes at the end of 2013 due to ethnic clashes remained displaced with host families. The source for this estimate is ICRC who has been assisting the IDPs since their displacement (IDMC interviews, October 2014; ICRC, 24 January 2014).  

The estimate also includes 1,200 people forcibly evicted by the police in June 2014 in Wingima, near the Porgera gold mine in Enga province (AI, 21 August 2014). The number was calculated based on the fact that each of the 200 homes destroyed housed one family and that the average household size in rural areas in Papua New Guinea is at least 6 (CARE, October 2011, p. 25).

Natural-hazard-related displacement

The number of people displaced by natural hazard-related disasters is estimated at 15,000. They consist of Manam islanders displaced by a volcanic eruption in 2004 and who have since been living in 3 camps in Bogia and Sumkar districts, Madang province. The population breakdown for the 3 camps is as following:

  • Mangem care center: 4,000 IDPs

  • Assuramba care center: 3,000 IDPs

  • Potsdam care center: 8,000 IDPs

The source for this figure is Paul Akuram, Manam relocation project coordinator. The figure is the result of a survey carried out in 2014 by the local authorities (IDMC interviews, October 2014). In 2012, a Local Level Government (LLG) representative estimated the number of IDPs in the care centers at between 15,000 and 16,000 (ABC, 26 September 2012).

Figures limitations

IDMC’s estimates are conservative as many displacement incidents remain under-reported. Data collection on the number or needs of IDPs in PNG is a major challenge in the absence of any comprehensive monitoring of displacement at the national level. Disaster monitoring and data collection systems are weak and disaster management at the provincial level local level is constrained by poor resources and capacity (WB, 2010, p. 11).

There is also no clear IDP definition at the national level and available data on natural hazard-related disasters does not distinguish between people who are “affected” and “displaced”. Moreover, data collection is hampered by lack of access. Ethnic clashes, the main cause of conflict-related displacement, often take place in remote areas where access is hindered by difficult terrain but also by ongoing insecurity, in particular in the Highlands region.

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.