Dozens of deaths from drought in PNG's Chimbu

8:44 pm on 2 September 2015

There are unconfirmed reports from Chimbu Province in Papua New Guinea that 24 people have died as a result of the severe drought hitting the Highlands.

The Chimbu provincial disaster co-ordinator, Michael Ire Appa, says he understands the deaths, which are yet to be confirmed, are due to a lack of food and poisoned water.

He says the figures could go higher.

"It's a bit hard to confirm but I think it's positive because the drought has been here for almost three months now and in areas that were affected by the drought, there's a serious food shortage, including water, and some of the districts have not report, so there my be more than that."

Michael Ire Appa says up to 80,000 people are in immediate need in his province with thousands also threatened by the drought.

He says about five tons of rice and other food aid is sitting in Kundiawa because the province lacks the logistical support to move it to the remote areas where the problems are most severe.

Papua New Guinea's busy Highlands Highway.

PNG authorities are struggling with the logistics of transporting relief supplies in drought-affected Highlands provinces Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Meanwhile, National Disaster teams are assessing which areas are the worst-affected by the drought.

The National Disaster Office says Australia may be asked to provide military air support and if the need arises to deploy supplies to these areas.

United Nations agencies are also preparing to respond to the impact of the extreme weather which disaster officials say is affecting one quarter of PNG's population.