Effects of El Nino drought felt across Melanesia
The 2015 El Niño phase is causing major disruptions to food production across Melanesia
The 2015 El Niño phase is causing major disruptions to food production across Melanesia.
Drought over recent months and frosts in the last few weeks in Papua New Guinea's Highlands provinces in particular have destroyed many essential food sources.
Other parts of the wider region, including Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, are also struggling for lack of rainfall.
Johnny Blades reports:
PNG's current drought is shaping up to be more severe than the last big drought in 1997. PNG's usually high rainfall levels have reduced significantly, creating a major impact in a country where around 80 per cent of food consumed is grown locally. A specialist in PNG agriculture and food, Mike Bourke from the Australian National University, says the drought will place a range of great strains on many people, especially in the hard-hit Highlands provinces.
MIKE BOURKE: The biggest single thing is that many hundreds of thousands of people, households, are scavenging for food, eating food that they normally wouldn't eat. So people are eating unusual food, or they're eating things in quantities that they normally wouldn't eat. So, tremendously disruptive, tremendously stressful. We're just talking about food now - but there's a whole lot of other elements here. There's water, there's health, there's migration. There's many elements to this. And education of course; in Enga province the provincial education secretary is saying they may have to close the schools down for a hundred thousand pupils in the coming weeks.
While impact assessments are in full swing, the PNG government this week made available almost ten million US dollars in relief funding. But there is likely to be a need for more assistance, with metereologists saying the drought could be a very long one. That's also the message in Vanuatu where people are being urged to prepare for drought that may last until next year. The head of the Climate Division of the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department Philip Mansale is warning the public to take note of Met service information
PHILIP MANSALE: We want to give farmers or even people living here the opportunity to be proactive and prepare, especially for water collection, rainwater collection, as well as planning the appropriate types of crops and vegetables that are drought resilient.
The Fiji government is also preparing for a prolonged dry spell. The Disaster Management Minister Inia Seruiratu says hundreds of thousands of litres of water have already been sent to parts of the Western Division, and outer islands. Over 30,000 people are being adversely affected by the lack of rain. Mr Seruiratu says the government is deploying almost 400-thousand US dollars in relief to cope with the current situation.
INIA SERUIRATU: The predictions from the weather office (are) that the period from September to October will be probably the worst and there are possibilities that we can continue into Janurary / February next year. Again, those are predictions but we are preparing for worst case scenarios.
In PNG, various Highlands provincial administrations as well as churches and NGOs have been busy mobilising response efforts to secure food for affected communities. Mike Bourke says a number of grassroots communities are also showing great initiative in adopting their own adaption methods.
MIKE BOURKE: Some interventions are relatively simple and straightforward, for example assisting people at extremely high altitude, above 2500 metres, above 2200, to come down to their wantoks, their extended family and friends at lower altitude.
Mike Bourke adds after PNG's experience of 1997, it is important that there is early national co-ordination of response efforts to ensure efficiency of relief delivery and resilience methods.
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