PM O’Neill said it is only in extreme cases that such Government intervention is required in Papua New Guinea.
“Ours is a country where for thousands of years the Wantok system has ensured communities look after communities in times of need,” PM O’Neill said.
“It is only in circumstances like now with drought made worse by climate change that Government is stepping in to provide immediate relief.
“Response to this current drought and frost disaster has been carefully managed to ensure relief supplies reach families and communities who are in need.
“NEC has so far allocated 25 million Kina to provide immediate relief to affected communities.
“Around half of this funding has already been used to purchase food supplies which have been and will continue to be distributed by district authorities.
"We have had a response strategy for this drought situation for some time and now we are executing this plan.
“The response to the drought today will not be a repeat of the response in 1997. Advances in communications have enabled the Department of Prime Minister and NEC, and the National Disaster Office, to be much more efficient in delivering relief.
“With all the best intention in 1997, Government systems were not able to effectively target relief supplies as well as we can today, and as a consequence money was wasted.
“Each district and each province is different, and our response is being managed according to these local needs.
“We are engaging the authorities, as the level of Government, that is closest to the people for distribution.
“The district authorities know their local communities and are in the best place to distribute supplies to people who are in need.
“All relevant distract authorities have now received first and second rounds of relief supplies and this will continue through additional rounds for as long as this drought lasts.
“If there is any village or community that has not received sufficient relief supplies I urge them to work with their district authorities.
“The current allocation of relief supplies will be reviewed as the response to the disaster continues.
“The next phases will also include preparations to replant seeds when rain arrives.
“At the same time several areas affected by frost that have ongoing water flows are already replanting and will harvest crops in coming weeks.
“We are also monitoring areas where there is potential for water shortages and considering options to provide solutions.
“I further urge all communities in drought areas to be very careful in lighting any fire as these can easily spread.
“There is no doubt that we are facing a severe situation but we must also ensure people keep level heads and do not circulate unsubstantiated claims.”
The Prime Minister cautioned against people believing unsubstantiated reports that are circulating on social media, some of which is politically motivated.
“This situation is affecting a lot of people, and we have to be careful to ensure accuracy of information,” the Prime Minister said.
“Now is certainly not the time to be playing politics, we must all work together.
“The National Disaster Office is dispatching medical professionals to assist wi
th ongoing assessments and will seek verification reporting loss of life.”
The Prime Minister congratulated the public officials involved in the delivery and distribution of the relief supplies and urged then to continue their efforts.
“We have some very capable members of our public services currently coordinating the targeted movement and distribution of relief supplies.”
Supplies have been delivered to central distributions points that includes:
• Across the Highlands 835,380 kilograms of rice and 120,000 cans of tuna have been delivered.
• In Tambul 190,890 kilograms of rice and 84,720 cans of tuna have been delivered.
• In Upper Mendi 120,000 kilograms of rice have been delivered.
• In Enga we have delivered 271,160 kilograms of rice and 12,000 tins of tuna have been delivered.
• Across Southern Highlands Province 230,000 kilograms rice and 12,000 tins of tuna have been delivered.
• In Simbu 90,000 kilograms of rice and 12,000 tins of tuna have been delivered.
• In Menyamya 100,000 kilograms of rice has been delivered.