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Table 2 Summary of war events that are likely causes of MHPS problems

From: The mental health and psychosocial impact of the Bougainville Crisis: a synthesis of available information

Event(s) Evidence/comment
Total deaths attributed to the war Estimates of the total number of deaths vary from 12,000 [13] to 20,000 [2] from a pre-war population of 160,000 [4]
In 1993, half way through the war, the Minister of Health had compiled the names of 10,000 people who had died [14]
Deaths due to deprivation of medical supplies Incomplete data from 18 of 23 Health Centres reported 2023 deaths from normally preventable diseases in the period January 1990–July 1991 [15]a
The blockade of all goods including medical supplies May 1990–September 1994 [16] in areas controlled by the PNG Defence Force, but lasted up to 8 years in areas controlled by the BRA [17]
Many of the 149 health facilities were destroyed and many health workers displaced [13]. Between 1992 and 1998, there were no doctors in central and southern Bougainville for a population of approximately 100,000 people [1]
Combat related deaths Estimates vary from 1000–2000 deaths for the whole war [4, 14] to 1500 deaths over about 26 months [10] b. There are reports of bodies buried in mass graves and dumped at sea from helicopters [14]
Extra-judicial killings murders and disappearances Investigators confirmed 158 extra-judicial killings and 13 disappearances [10, 18] b, but concluded that the number of extra judicial killings was “undoubtedly higher” ([18], p. 1)b
The alleged extra judicial killings of 374 people and the murder of 166 people was reported [15, 19]a. Additionally, there are reports of extra-judicial killings where the number killed is unknown (e.g. “a group” [15], p. 12a). It is unclear if these numbers are additional to or inclusive of those in other reports [10, 18]b
Displacement of population More than half of the population was displaced: 15,000–20,000 fled Bougainville [4]; 67,300 were internally displaced into care centres (internal refugee camps) [18] and nearly half of those in these centres were under 15 years of age [1]; and unknown numbers moved to BRA bush camps and hid independently [1]. About 50,000 people were living in care centres at the time of the cease-fire [13]
Displacement to care centres included forced relocation following the destruction of villages and the perpetration of human rights abuses within these centres [10 b, 15 a, 18 b, 19 a]
Sexual assault Reports range from the alleged sexual assault of individuals through to the sexual assault of “many” in care centres, pack rapes, individuals being murdered after being raped, women committing suicide after being raped and people being detained and sexually assaulted over weeks [10 b, 14, 15 a, 18 b, 19 a, 20]. While the numbers who were sexually assaulted is unknown, thousands of files of rape victims were destroyed by combatants who feared the implications of these records in relation to possible action regarding war crimes [4]. Reports of sexual assaults contrast with the view of there being a low pre-war incidence of sexual assault due to unique cultural factors in a largely matrilineal society [21, 22]
Deliberate and indiscriminate gunfire People in villages, boats and canoes were subjected to indiscriminate gunfire from land, patrol boats and helicopters [6, 10 b, 15 a, 18 b, 19 a, 20]
120 reports of alleged incidents: with some resulting in deaths and property damage; that range from discrete short lasting events to those that were sustained for a few weeks; and incidents that appeared to have specific targets to those that covered broad geographical areas [15, 19]a
Harassment, beatings and torture 124 reports of alleged incidents affecting individuals through to whole villages [15, 19]a
Evidence in other reports [10 b, 14, 18 b, 20]
Undermining of traditional authority The traditional authority of elders and women was undermined by military command [23]
Damage to important values and relationships Important values and pro-social relationship dynamics were damaged in care centres [24] and “deep divisions” [8, p. 26] were created amongst Bougainvillians who fought against each other [14]
Property damage 118 alleged incidents resulting in the destruction or damage of residential and commercial property, food gardens and crops, theft and the killing of animals [15, 19]a. Events documented range from the burning of one home to the destruction of clusters of villages resulting in the displacement of 10,000 people. It is estimated that the homes of one-third of the population were destroyed [4, 14]; 14 million cocoa trees were destroyed [1]; and that only 20 % of cocoa trees remained in Southern Bougainville [1]
The collapse of the education system Between 15,000 and 20,000 children were denied an education due to the closure and/or damage to schools [1]. Prior to the war Bougainville had the highest standard of secondary school education in PNG [13]. In 2011, a number of schools had not resumed [14]
Economic The almost total destruction of economy and infrastructure [1, 8, 16]
The pre-war economy was “dominated” by the Panguna mine ([1], p. 50). It has been estimated that in 1989 the mine would have contributed 4000 direct and 8000 indirect jobs [25]. The mine has not reopened.
Cocoa and copra are Bougainville’s largest export crops [26] and historically have been the major source of income for the majority of the population [25]. In 1988/98, 18,000 tons of cocoa and 27,000 tons copra were produced and this fell to negligible levels during the war [1]. By 2006, cocoa and copra production had increased to 15,000 and 12,800 tons respectively [26]
  1. a Data was collected under considerable duress, and the author noted that the 85-page compilation is likely to underestimate the full extent of human rights abuses. Further, the Bougainville Peace Agreement pardoned all combatants and thus there has been no further investigation of alleged human rights abuses [11]
  2. b Restrictions imposed on investigators and threats made to civilians regarding the provision of information to investigators, suggest that these reports underestimate the incidence of human rights abuses