Southern parts of PNG still struggling with drought
Communities in parts of Papua New Guinea such as Western Province and Milne Bay Province remain in critical need of food and water amidst a prolonged drought.
Communities in parts of Papua New Guinea such as Western Province and Milne Bay Province remain in critical need of food and water amid a prolonged drought.
The drought, which began in the first half of last year, appears to finally be over in many parts of PNG, following recent bouts of rain.
However a specialist in PNG agriculture and food, Mike Bourke, says there remain large parts of the south that have still not had any significant rain.
Dr Bourke, who is an honorary associate professor at the Australian National University, spoke to Johnny Blades.
MIKE BOURKE: There's been useful food aid going out to some areas, and many other areas the amount of food that's gone out has been actually very limited. In Western Province, the Ok Tedi development foundation, with help from the Australian and New Zealand governments for transport, are getting food out at the moment in Western Province. In Milne Bay the provincial government had some money available and they put food out last December, but the reports that we're getting in from Milne Bay say that things are actually getting worse down there, not better. That's not the exception, most parts of PNG have got better or are getting better, but in Milne Bay the authorities are telling us that the drought is getting worse, particularly in the grassland areas north of Alotau, but also in the very small islands where they report 18,700 people are still struggling with food supply and water supply.
JOHNNY BLADES: So help is still needed really, isn't it?
MB: Very much so Johnny, very much so. Now, how much longer that will be needed for depends, first of all, on access to sago; secondly on when rains come in the very far south of the country; and then thirdly, on altitude, things do take longer at high altitude.
JB: When you compare this to '97, is it quite markedly different the way things have panned out so far?
MB: It started off more dramatically which gave many of us a fright, but then the rains came earlier. For much of PNG, this is not as severe as '97, so this is in the second tier. However, having said that, in Western Province in particular, this seems to be worse. The people who are involved in Western in '97 tell me they don't remember it being as bad as this and certainly before Christmas '97 there was rainfall everywhere in the country. Even now, in March 2016 there are parts of the country in parts of the south which have had rain, particularly in the last few weeks, but not significant rain. So it's a different pattern, particularly down south it is actually more severe, on the national level it is not as severe as '97 or 1914.
JB: Certainly some of those images filtering through of the malnourished kids and communities in Western, it's pretty pointed there.
MB: Very much so. The images that we're seeing from particularly the Nomad Mogulu area up in the Strickland in the center of that province, and also down the south of Moorhead where Queensland islands, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea meet, they're very disturbing, frankly; very disturbing images of what's happening to children and adults.
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