Looming PNG weather crisis spurs action

2:13 pm on 21 August 2015

Disaster authorities in Papua New Guinea are preparing a massive assessment exercise of the provinces which have been severely affected by frosts and drought.

More than 200 thousand people in subsistence farming communities in the Highlands region have lost their food gardens to frost and some areas have been without rain for more than two months.

Oxfam and other NGOs say they are ready to assist the national disaster authorities in Port Moresby who began planning an aid response yesterday.

Radio New Zealand International's PNG correspondent Todagia Kelola says the widespread destruction spells even harder times ahead.

"The impact is yet to be realised in that the product or the goods that they are depending on will eventually in a week or maybe two weeks time, that is when, especially the subsistence farmers will be greatly affected by this drought."

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea.

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

While many parts of the Highlands, notably Enga, Southern, and Western Highlands provinces, have been affected by frost, drought is a factor across all the Highlands provinces.

But it's not only the Highlands which hasn't seen rain for more than two months - coastal provinces such as Morobe and Central are suffering for a lack of water too.

Meanwhile, Care International PNG, which is preparing to get relief to affected Highlands areas, says long term planning is needed.

Its assistant country director, Blossum Gilmour, who is based in Goroka in Eastern Highlands, says relief agencies are working with the PNG government to get proper assessments of people's needs.

"There was a meeting of the National Disaster Team down in Port Moresby and they are planning to do assessments in the areas that have been affected so far, in the near future to assess the extent of the current need. But also to look at forward planning and how can we plan to meet the needs that are going to develop over the coming months."

She says PNG could be in for a very long drought and it could be well into next year before many traditional crops can be grown again.