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200,000 people struggling to find food

Wednesday 10 August 2016 | Published in Regional

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PNG highlanders still need aid after El-Niño drought

PAPUA NEW GUINEA – The World Food Programme says more than 200,000 people are still in need of food aid in Papua New Guinea’s highlands, as the region continues its slow recovery from the most severe El Niño-related drought in decades.

The WFP started distributing food in Milne Bay province this week, hoping to reach more than 50,000 hungry people.

“We have already reached 127,000 people and they have been given six weeks’ rations, but we need to restart the same activity again for another round and then they should be able to manage on their own,” WFP Emergency Coordinator Mats Persson told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat from Port Moresby.

While the El Niño weather event is officially over, many families still have months to wait before their gardens produce edible crops.

The effort to get food aid delivered by trucks to the most remote parts of the affected provinces has also proved a challenge.

“It is difficult to get into the mountainous areas where the rains have already started, so the roads are not very easy to manoeuvre through with large containers,” Persson said.

“But we try to bring the food up to as close as the population as we can, which is of course difficult. They still might have to walk two to four hours to actually get to a distribution site and take the food back up in the mountains.”

The WFP said it is still in need of further funds from international donors.

“It’s a $12.6 million operation. We are funded up to $9.2 million right now, with generous donations from USA, Japan and the European Community.

“But we’re still seeking donations for carrying out the complete operation.”

In the meantime, other aid agencies are working with local farmers to produce crops that can resist the effect of drought and frost in future.

“The farmers are planting in the fields and working with the aid partners, so we hope that it is a one-off situation.

“Of course, feeding people doesn’t help them for the future and so we fully understand that there has to be a joint effort for this.

“We’re working with the food security cluster in the country to make sure that there are parallel solutions taking place.” - ABC