18 Nov 2015

Rains do little to ease PNG drought

From , 5:05 am on 18 November 2015

The governor of Papua New Guinea's Chimbu province says recent rains have done nothing to ease the severe drought.

Much of the Highlands region is in the grip of a severe drought brought on by the current El Niño system, with an estimated three million people suffering from food and water shortages.

Noah Kool says about 100,000 people are affected in his province, as the drought has killed most crops and streams are drying up fast.

He told Jamie Tahana the province experienced heavy rain last week for the first time in months, but that has done little to help.

NOAH KOOL: Last week we had couple of rains, the most part of Chimbu experienced rain. Today it has not improved, the rain has stopped and people are still coming forward to our office seeking help because they couldn't grow anything and they are short of food now.

JAMIE TAHANA: How many people in the province need help?

NK: I would say around 100,000, they need help.

JT: And that's for food, water, everything?

NK: Most people food. They can run to the nearest creek, that's water. But most of the small creeks that lying about, they can still get water from big, big rivers. But the food shortage is still there.

JT: With this lack of food and water have there been reports of disease breaking out or anything?

NK: Today we have not heard any reports of diseases break out. We haven't had any reports on death. But our open MP, Members of Parliament, that represents each of the districts, they are only now putting [out] supplies, relief supplies. The districts are spending around two million kina to roll out the food supplies, but two million kina is insufficient.

JT: So the relief funds the government has released has already been used up?

NK: Yeah, yeah, it's all been used up. Because more and more people are coming. Twenty five million kina the government allocated is insufficient.

JT: Is there any word of whether there's going to be any more, going to be released anytime soon?

NK: Yes, the government has put on the budget, but it might not be forthcoming this year, it might be next year. So we've got this month and next month to go without you know, any relief assistance. Here now, we're looking for ways that we can help our people. My provincial government is telling us we might use the development funds to help the people affected.

JT: OK, so you're now looking to divert money from roads or infrastructure to feed your people?

NK: That's right. The government has put restrictions saying that only two million can be used.  But I don't know where the other funds will come from.

JT: So what does Port Moresby need to do, as you say, can Papua New Guinea handle this?

NK: I think we should start asking Australia and New Zealand to start helping. The government is not asking the foreign countries, you know, we have to swallow our pride and start asking people because we really need help.