March 19, 2018

IOM, govt and partners to assess impact of disaster in PNG

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) teams are now working with the Papua New Guinea Government and partners to assess the full impact of the disaster in the five affected provinces.

And they are working together with the PNG Government to deliver essential lifesaving aid to survivors, even as landslides and aftershocks continue to affect the region.

IOM, which is leading the shelter, non-food item, and camp co-ordination and camp management clusters in the emergency response, has deployed displacement tracking teams, assisted by oil and gas company ExxonMobil and other local partners on the ground, to assess the impact, needs, and assistance gaps for people affected by the quake.

In their brief IOM Papua New Guinea chief of mission Lance Bonneau stated the government estimates that over 544,000 people across five provinces were affected by the quake, which left at least 145 people dead. More than 270,000 are in need of immediate aid, including food, water, medicines, tarpaulins, tents and blankets.

The government and its aid agency and private sector partners have targeted seven of the worst-hit Local Level Governments (LLGs) in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces. It has also set up two forward operating bases and two emergency operations centres close to the quake’s epicentre.

But while main roads have largely been cleared, aid workers warn that damage estimates may continue to rise as many affected communities remain cut off by landslides and are only accessible by air.

“Many among the affected populations live in remote communities that are a challenge to access at the best of times. In the face of a natural disaster of this magnitude, they have become even more isolated. Air support to reach these people is critical,” IOM said.

IOM, which last week received US$100,000 from USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, has already delivered basic shelter and non-food relief items to over 400 displaced families. The US funding will allow it to provide basic shelter, water and sanitation to another 800 of the hardest hit families and will also support training for local authorities and NGOs managing Care Centre shelters for quake survivors.

Another US$100,000 channeled to IOM last week by UNOCHA – the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – will be used to provide more lifesaving aid, including shelter materials and water containers, to another 2,500 families.

Meanwhile, people living near Komo International Airport in Hela Province are seeking shelter in nearby provinces as aftershocks continue daily.

There is an influx of people to Western Highlands and Jiwaka provinces as continuous aftershocks of the February 26 earthquake continues to frighten the people into fleeing elsewhere.

Six families who had left their place they call home in Komo travelled into Mount Hagen last week to stay with their relatives.

They confirmed with the Post-Courier that the earth is still moving slowly and in multiple directions daily.

Oil Search tax credit scheme village relations officer Johnson Tape who had fled for his life to Mount Hagen said last Friday that Komo was no longer “safe” for people to live in.

Tape, who is also a landowner of Komo International Airport, said “the earth is moving every 30 minutes” sending fear in people who have started to seek temporary shelter in other provinces.

He called on the National Government and the provincial leaders to provide a care centre out of Hela Province for people to live there until the earthquake comes to a complete stop.

“The earth is moving every 30 minutes and in multiple direction…that makes it unsafe for the people to remain there,” Tape said, adding that more and more people were leaving their villages and travelling to Western Highlands, Jiwaka, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands to live with their relatives and friends.

“Our relatives and friends will not allow us to stay with them for a week or two and the governments has to find us a temporary place to stay,” Tape said.

He said the affected people of the earthquake appreciate the relief effort provided by the government, non-governmental organisations, international communities and business houses but the movement of the earth occurring everyday is posing a bigger threat to the lives of the people.

“In the meantime, we have to live out of our villages and wait for it to stop. It’s really hard for us to build new houses or make new gardens as the land is not stable. Our cry now is for the leaders in authority to provide us with a care centre,” Tape said.