Alarming health rates beneath PNG's MDGs failure

World Vision says Papua New Guinea's poor Millennium Development Goals performance represents real issues with maternal and child health in the country.

The comments were made at an Australian senate inquiry into Canberra's aid programme in PNG.

The PNG country program director, Curt von Boguslawski, says the rate of stunting in babies, caused by malnutrition which hampers the development of the brain, is at nearly 50 per cent, one of the highest rates in the world.

He says the under-five mortality rate is 61 in every 1000 live births, and one in every 120 expecting mothers will die during childbirth.

Dr von Boguslawski says the Sustainable Development Goals, which replace the MDGs at the end of this year, provide an opportunity for Australia to do more to avoid similarly disappointing outcomes in the future.

"The failure to achieve them represents very real, preventable maternal and child deaths, a lack of access to nutritious food and safe water and compromised lifetime education and earning potential for those stunted during childhood."

Meanwhile, the senate inquiry heard a call for Papua New Guinea to declare an emergency in response to increasing violence against women accused of sorcery.

The PNG Oxfam country director, Esme Sinapa, said women were being accused of witchcraft when the real issue was often about land rights.

She claimed many women have died because they couldn't get help soon enough.

Ms Sinapa said PNG needs to declare an emergency on sorcery-related violence, because it is becoming so widespread.