Papua New Guinea consists of the eastern half of the mountainous island of New Guinea, plus more than 50 populated islands, extending eastwards to the island of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands chain. Most islands are of volcanic origin, and active volcanic activity is common, alongside natural hazards ranging from frost and floods to droughts.
The indigenous population is almost entirely Melanesian, though there are Polynesian outliers north of Bougainville. There are significant ethnic distinctions between population groups in different parts of the country. The country is unusually fragmented, by terrain, history, culture and language. About 840 distinct languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, around a quarter of the world’s stock, reflecting enormous regional and local cultural divisions.