Villagers starve as PNG drought relief stalls
Poor logistical planning has seen crucial food and relief aid stop just short of reaching people dying from starvation in remote parts of drought affected Papua New Guinea.
Poor logistical planning has been blamed for relief supplies not reaching starving people in drought-affected parts of Papua New Guinea.
An estimated 800,000 people are in need of food in mainly remote areas.
The PNG government says it has started providing relief aid but frontline workers say much of it is stuck in provincial warehouses, with no budget to distribute the supplies.
Koroi Hawkins has more,
"The dry spell is still on and we are, some people are starving because of shortage of food, it started last year and is still worse today."
Solokai Fataiyai is speaking from Mougulu station deep in the jungle of Papua New Guineas Western Province. He says it has now been more than six months since the drought began and his people are losing hope of ever getting help from the government.
"They are promising us to assist us but at the moment we have not received any assistance, almost from last year middle of the year. At the moment we have got 15 people already have passed away because of hunger."
According to a specialist in Papua New Guinea agriculture and food, Mr Fataiya's situation is shared by hundreds of thousands not because there is no aid but because local authorities lack the resources to get aid to those in need.
Mike Bourke who has just returned to Australia says this stems from a combination of drought-related factors including reduced nutrition and an increased disease burden with people having to work twice as hard to find food.
"Adults are dying who don't normally die, people in their 20's and 30's there is clearly an increase in death rate amongst very small children. So we don't have really hard data we don't have lots of good demographic data but the evidence (photographic) coming in is credible. It may not be tens of thousands of people over all but for the groups and communities involved it is a huge tragedy."
Dr Bourke has been compiling reports and analysis to try and assist authorities to be more strategic in the distribution of the aid.
Some of these reports rely on eyewitness accounts from people like Sally Lloyd, the daughter of Australian missionaries who grew up in the mountainous jungles of PNG's Western province.
She says what she saw on her latest trip to the area only a few weeks ago shocked her and affected her deeply.
"A little boy came in one day or his father carried him in one day he had fainted and he was really dehydrated malnourished very, very hungry and and he had fainted and then become unconcious.They had really nothing to give him and he was too flat to even get a drip into him. So we just tried to rehydrate him a little bit and things like that. So that sort of thing to see little children in that state because they have not had adequate food is quite heart wrenching."
Workers on the frontline of the drought crisis are pleading with the national government to allow international donor partners and humanitarian organisations to take part in ongoing efforts to provide relief to drought affected communities.
The drought relief director for uni-faith organistation Church Partnership Program, Mathew Kanua, says international partners could help.
"They do this thing all over the world, they can come and help and plan the logistics and transport together with the government and budget these things and invite the participation of the private sector and we can move this along very quickly. But the government has not clearly stated what role these people play and if any."
One of the final villagers I spoke to in the remote Western Province region introduced himself simply as Samade.
He was not confident enough with his English to speak with me for long but summed up the situation in his village eloquently in PNG Tok Pisin.
"Some of us have died, some of us feel we are getting sick and we all in this drought have no food in our bellies."
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: