According to Sam Bolitho, Senior Media Advisor with CARE Australia, 2.4 million people in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been affected by drought and frost; half a million people are in critical need of food and 700,000 have been “severely impacted” by the drought. Upon returning from a trip to some of PNG’s worst affected areas last month, Sam told ABC’s Pacific Beat program that a month of heavy rain had introduced landslides and flooding to the list of problems survivors and aid workers are contending with.
Flying into Goroka, Sam could see rivers bursting their banks and brown with sediment; water quality was badly affected, worsening the risk of diarrhea and typhoid. Although locals were replanting gardens, it is anticipated that staple crops like sweet potato will take 6-7 months to grow. With assitance from aid workers, locals are planting gardens with quicker growing crops (like corn), but these too will take some months to yield.
To make matters worse, roads have been destroyed by landslides; in Goroka, a key response team was landlocked and unable to reach the people it needed to help due to the roads being flooded. Although there are multiple natural and man-made disasters in urgent need of funding globally at the moment, and to some extent competing for international relief funds, Sam told Pacific Beat to think of PNG's drought crisis in this way:
“You can’t fund everything and have to decide which one you are going to fund. One of the best things that can be done is just highlighting the impact this is having. It’s a slow burn disaster, so it’s easy to ignore the severity of the crisis, but people are doing it extremely tough, and this is on Australia’s doorstep.”
Those seeking to give are advised to contribute directly to aid appeals currently being run by reputable organisations. Below are links to organisations and groups delivering aid to drought affected regions in PNG.
NOTE: If you have details of other small scale aid projects being delivered by church groups, community groups or private individuals, please get in touch with Stella Magazine with the details in the comments below, or email, so that we can share the information with our readers.
Famine Relief Supplies for Remote areas PNG is being coordinated by Sally Lloyd, whose photographic evidence of drought victims - which she presented to officials at a drought meeting in Port Moresby earlier this year - sparked a probe by the Prime Minister's Office (as reported in our previous post ‘The drought in PNG’).
“There is a lot of need in PNG right now with the ongoing food shortage. Huge businesses and companies need to be involved in the food distribution, and there is hope that is starting to happen soon.
We can still help - providing information, statistics and stories, being part of the information network, along with love and care for a few.
Being here helps me communicate by radio to those who have no voice and to tell their stories.”
This was their latest operations update:
“Back safely from PNG after some great success in seeing initial distributions of rice done in the Nomad/Mougulu area. There is still a long way to go to reach all those needing help, and the people will need further support to help them through until their crops grow again in many months time.”
Sally Lloyd also visited and shared the contact details of Rumginae Hospital; they look after many clinics and health centres, servicing more than 40,000 people who live in drought affected areas. To get in touch with them:
Dr Sharon Brandon
ECPNG North Fly Health Services
CARE Australia launched an emergency response in Papua New Guinea and other countries affected by El Niño. In Papua New Guinea, CARE continue to distribute emergency food rations, ensure families have clean drinking water, assess children for malnutrition and try to make sure they can stay clean and healthy with things like water containers, purification tablets and soap. You can read the story of one woman assisted by CARE HERE.
CARE is also working with communities to replant devastated crops, and implement long-term initiatives to mitigate impacts of natural disasters such as El Niño.
Donate to CARE’s El Niño crisis appeal HERE.
World Vision has begun The El Niño Drought Response project in Markham - supported by the New Zealand AID Program (MFAT) and World Vision New Zealand - one of two projects started in January that will end in August. The other project is being implemented in communities in Bogia District, Madang Province. It is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and World Vision Australia.
World Vision PNG also conducted rapid assessments in five hard-hit provinces in the PNG's Highlands.
Contact World Vision Papua New Guinea HERE.
Uniting World used emergency funds to provide a drought impact assessment to assist their partner the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) best respond to affected communities: “As ever our partners UCPNG are resilient and proactive, and taking the lead in what is proving to be one of their greatest challenges yet”.
“We will assist our partner to develop a response plan that complements that of the PNG National Disaster Office.”
UnitingWorld’s Emergency Contingency Fund will be used to support UCPNG’s program, directly assisting communities throughout drought affected areas.
Donate to Uniting World Emergency Contingency Fund HERE.
The Red Cross has assessed the needs of people living in areas severely affected by the El Niño climate cycle. They have been helping families to protect their health by boiling the water they collect and teaching handwashing practices. Red Cross volunteers also provided locals with practical tips to cope with the drought.
Red Cross has been working with the World Food Program and the National Disaster Centre to carry out food distributions to affected communities, and has provided jerry cans for immediate water storage and hygiene kits.
“Every donation we receive for our Disaster Response and Recovery work helps Australian Red Cross continue to be there for local and international communities struggling in the wake of a disaster.”
Donate to the Red Cross HERE.
Find out how to get in touch with Red Cross PNG to volunteer or assist HERE.
OXFAM is supporting PNG communities to remain resilient to drought through water, sanitation, hygiene, and livelihoods assistance, as well as an emphasis on awareness raising and public health messaging to support good hygiene practices. They're continuing to monitor the situation closely and coordinate with the PNG Government at national and provincial levels, as well as partners and other NGOs on the ground, to ensure there are effective overall preparedness measures.
Donate to OXFAM HERE.
WORDS by Pauline Vetuna.
All photos by 'Famine Relief Supplies for Remote areas PNG' on Facebook here.
Image 1: men carrying donated rice bags.
Image 2: Elderly couple from Igimi village.
Image 3: Rice bags storage.
Image 4: A child, Sibafi, drinking with help.
Image 5: Donated hydration tablets.
Image 6: A mother holding a donated 10kg bag, which will be shared by 14 people.
Image 7: Elderly lady, very thin & weak, who walked hours to an empty market.