Hundreds of thousands face food shortages in PNG

7:32 pm on 20 August 2015

The Papua New Guinea Highlands provinces, home to several million people, are on the edge of a catastrophe caused by drought and frosts.

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Photo: 123RF

Many parts of Enga, Southern, and Western Highlands provinces have been affected by frost which have laid waste to vegetable gardens, especially critical foods such as sweet potato.

Drought is also a factor across all the Highlands provinces with some areas not seeing rain for more than two months.

The assistant country director for Care International in PNG says traditionally rains return by October but she says forecasters are predicting drought conditions could continue into the New Year.

Blossum Gilmour says despite the gloomy forecast she is encouraged by the early calls for help from provincial governments throughout PNG.

"There is going to be a need we see needs now and they are only going to increase. So that makes us hopeful that there is time for the response efforts to be well coordinated and make sure that everyone who is affected and actually needs support to get through the drought can get that support."

Care International's Blossum Gilmour

The Papua New Guinea Opposition says the Government should delay anniversary celebrations and direct funds to help the victims of the drought and frosts in the Highlands.

The Government this week allocated $US8.7 million dollars for the 40th anniversary celebrations in 4 weeks, to be divided among the 20 provinces and their MPs for gala events .

But the Opposition Leader, Don Polye, says starvation is looming in the Highlands and there cannot be celebrating.

Papua New Guinea's former Treasurer, Don Polye

Papua New Guinea's former Treasurer, Don Polye Photo: Supplied

He is urging the government to defer the celebrations until the end of the year to allow the victims to recover.

He says the celebration grant would be better spent by diverting it into providing relief supplies.