PNG's Chimbu Governor says drought effects becoming severe
The Governor of Chimbu Province in Papua New Guinea says in some areas in his province the impact of the drought is becoming severe, but he says reports of deaths are yet to be confirmed.
While parts of the Papua New Guinea Highlands got some welcome rain during the week the impact of several months of drought is growing.
The Highlands are in the van guard of impacts from the most severe El Nino in years with drought predicted to last into next year.
To compound the impacts on food gardens there have been destructive frosts.
The governor of PNG's Chimbu province, Noah Kool, told Don Wiseman areas such as the Wahgi Valley are particularly badly hit.
NOAH KOOL: Some parts of the province are affected badly, especially people who are living on rocky, rocky, rocky soil areas, especially along the Wahgi Valley and up in the Highlands people are badly affected. Other areas, it's not so much that bad, they still have sweet potatoes, they still have vegetables but some areas, the food has all gone.
DON WISEMAN: These reports that we've had that people may have died as a result of a lack of food and the water that's gone bad. Have you yourself seen any sign of this?
NK: The rivers are drying up, they were big rivers. So water-borne diseases, it is yet to be confirmed. But hunger, deaths from hunger, we have unconfirmed reports. The number that the disaster chairman was was talking about is unconfirmed. We can't confirm it today, as yet.
DW: Do you suspect people will have died at this point?
NK: At this point in time they will still look around, they will still look around for food -- they can still survive now. But the longer it takes, then desperate people will be looking around and dying.
DW: Now the government has sent through aid in the form of rice and other food, but I understand it's actually very difficult to get it out -- right out -- to these remote affected areas. So what is being done about that?
NK: OK, just firstly: the aid that the government gave, we are yet to actually know the number of people who are affected.
DW: You need to know the numbers of people affected before you'll actually start distributing the aid?
NK: Exactly, all we need realistic figures, so we are sending people around to get realistic figures, and try to assess the damage realistically so we know precisely how many people need rice, or who need flour and other relief food.
DW: Yes, well that's always going to be an estimate isn't it because you've got....
NK: An estimate, that's right...
DW:...presumably more people becoming affected.
NK: That's right.
DW: How bad do you think it's all going to get? Are you envisaging a very significant impact across the province?
NK: Yes, yes in different areas. Give us another three or four more months then the whole areas will be affected - the whole province will be affected right throughout. Right now, it's only some areas.
DW: And will any of those people be able to fend for themselves or with family, or will they be relying on government food aid?
NK: I think they will be relying on government food aid 100 percent.
DW: It must be a fairly trying thing to these communities that are really struggling. Those people in those tough areas, as you say, in the Wahgi Gorge, attitude wise, how are they feeling?
NK: Oh, they are very, very worried now. They are very, very worried now because the Wahgi Gorge is normally hot and, you know, there are stones. They are living on the stones. So when the sun gets up, quickly, things get dried. So they are very, very worried now. These are the people we'll look at first. And frost-affected areas. Frost has affected food gardens. These are the guys who are badly affected now so we really need to look at these guys.
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