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Support ongoing for landslide survivors in Papua New Guinea

Friday 7 June 2024 | Written by RNZ | Published in Papua New Guinea, Regional

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Support ongoing for landslide survivors in Papua New Guinea
Locals dig during search and rescue efforts at the site of a landslide at Yambali village in the region of Maip Mulitaka in Papua New Guinea's Enga Province on May 30, 2024. Photo: AFP / Emmanuel Eralia/24060701

Mounting challenges remain for the authorities and humanitarian groups supporting survivors, including women and children disproportionately, affected by the Papua New Guinea deadly landslide.

Two weeks on from the Yambali village landslide in Enga Province, humanitarian assistance is still being hampered by lack of road access, tension between tribes and new evacuation orders.

Despite authorities ending the recovery for bodies and health officials deeming it unsafe due risk of contamination and disease, some locals have ignored warnings and have continued their desperate search.

At least 670 people are now deemed missing persons.

There is still no official figure for the number of deaths from the landslide but the latest update has come down from more than 2000 people originally provided by the PNG government.

However, the UNDP has said aid groups are directly supporting 1650 internally displaced people.

Close to 8000 people from two communities in the area have been affected, UN Humanitarian Affairs specialist & advisor Mate Bagossy said.

Humanitarian organisation CARE said many challenges remain including a lack of road access, increasing tribal tension, and a 72-hour evacuation order issued by local government this week.

Poor road conditions have meant some surrounding villages have also been cut off, and those people are also in need of assistance according to aid groups.

"It seems re-opening the road is not safe. So the back road will need to be opened. The original road could be declared a burial site," Bagossy said.

World Vision, UNICEF, CARE and the UN are supporting relief efforts in the affected areas of Yambali Ward where the landslide occurred.

CARE is conducting a Rapid Gender Assessment to understand the specific needs of women and girls affected by the disaster.

The group is also preparing to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene support and dedicated safe spaces for children left traumatised by the landslide and its aftermath.

Aid groups have also expressed concern for pregnant women and children disproportionately affected.

"Women affected by the landslide tell us they have no spare clothes or food. It's beginning to get very cold in the Highlands. Monsoon season, bringing rain with it, is also about to begin," CARE program director PNG, Doreen Fernando said.

Humanitarian groups are also caring for dozens of children and orphans affected by the Papua New Guinea landslide.

"Many mothers have been telling us their children are beginning to fall sick. There's also been a diarrhoea outbreak due to lack of sanitation and hygiene options," Fernando said.

UNICEF PNG representative Angela Kearney told Morning Report they have set up a special tent just for children to play.

"We set up a child friendly space they can dance, sing, play, paint. We have trained volunteers. There is absolute sorrow and sadness in children's faces. With partnerships with government and NGO's we will help them."

The evacuation order is displacing people onto neighbouring lands which is fuelling pre-existing tribal tensions in the region.

"We have a situation where people have been told that it isn't safe to stay where they are, and that the landslide could continue down the mountain. But they don't have anywhere to move to" Fernando said.

Kearney said, it was hard for people to leave the site because "there's a lot of trauma and emotional drawbacks to be close to where their loved ones are."

  • RNZ

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