Drought in PNG still impacting on millions
About two million of PNG's population remain affected by a drought which began in the middle of last year.
Papua New Guinea's leading disaster official says it's thought up to 3 million people are still affected by drought.
There has been considerable rain in some places but the permanent secretary of the Provincial and Local Government Affairs, and the head of the national disaster management office, Dickson Guina, says the drought effect remains a major issue.
The El Nino induced drought destroyed food gardens, particularly in the Highlands, in spring last year.
Western Province, parts of Milne Bay and isolated pockets all over the country remain in the grip of the drought.
Mr Guina told Don Wiseman about the numbers that remain affected.
DICKSON GUINA: Initially we had an assessment chamber which went and did assessment and we had a population count that was about more than three million people were affected, at that time when our teams went out to do the assessment. But it may increase because the drought effects are still continuing in most areas of the country, in the low coastal areas.
DW: I guess one of the key issues that people have spoken about is that the food gardens take a while to come on. So I imagine a lot of areas now do have food gardens in place but they've gone six months without food and they're going to have several more aren't they?
DG: Yeah of course. The food garden takes some time for them to yield to the normal, that they have the normal pattern. It will take some time and certainly there's a big, big challenge for us.
DW: There have been suggestions from some agencies that the government's perhaps washing its hands of this too early?
DG: Ah no, the government has responded very early, positively, in terms of the village supplies. As soon as the drought was escalating we dispatched those relief supplies to the main centres. And we asked the provincial government to take responsibility to deliver them at the site. I think the government has responded positively. In terms of the logistics, the accessibility, some districts have not got relief on time because of those challenges. But otherwise in all we have seen a lot of improvement in terms of those supplies for those affected areas.
DW: We've had a number of provincial administrator people speak with us and say their problem has always been a lack of resources, so for instance they haven't had enough vehicles to get the material out to people who often are living in very remote areas. And in a place like Western Province that would be even more the case because it's such a big province isn't it?
DG: Yeah it's a big province it's also very challenging because of accessibility, we don't have roads networks, these are some of the challenges, real challenges that we are facing.
DW: Are the provincial governments in a position where they can respond positively, have they got enough resources to help them do it?
DG: I believe the provincial government has resources, they can be able to respond to that because they have a budget and of course the government has given its approval for them to use the DSIP [District Service Improvement Programme] money under the district authorities. So there is money, it's all about coordination and trying to get these done and I think these are some of the challenges that we have for the provincial administration, they need to coordinate them themselves so they are able to deliver those things in a timely manner.
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