4 May 2006

Bougainville minister says food shortages on outer islands worse than earlier reports

9:01 pm on 4 May 2006

The Bougainville Minister for Atolls and Fisheries in Papua New Guinea says a food shortage on the outer islands of the province is worse than first thought.

Taehu Pais has just returned from a fact-finding mission to the Carteret, Mortlock, Tasman and Nuguria islands which were hit by high tides nearly two months ago.

The tides destroyed food crops and gardens that the locals rely on for food.

Mr Pais says nearly two tonnes of rice that was sent to the more than 4-thousand islanders has now been used and locals are surviving on dried coconut and what fish they can catch.

He says more food needs to be sent within the next fortnight.

"It is very urgent. My approach to the government was to say the need to get food supply to the islands of Carteret and Mortlock and the other two islands is desperate. Because of the shipping services that we have, leaving every two months or three months, we need to immediately fast-track if the government is serious about the situation on the islands."

Mr Pais says the Bougainville administration has approached the national diasaster committee for assistance.