More Top Stories


Alleged rapist in remand

27 April 2024

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Drought persists across Pacific

Thursday 3 December 2015 | Published in Regional


PACIFIC – Aid agencies are stepping up their assistance for the millions around the Pacific affected by drought.

Latest estimates say up to four million people in the Pacific are suffering the effects of the water and food shortages as an El Niño induced drought persists.

Care International says a little recent rain in parts of the highlands has eased some of the drought pressure, but not enough to allow crop planting.

The highlands has been at the forefront of the months long drought which is now impacting across much of the country.

Care International’s Blossom Gilmour says with the recent rain, tension around water has eased a little but she says the long term forecast is still bleak and food security concerns will remain for months.

“Normally people would have planted back in July and be eating those crops now, whereas they haven’t been able to do that, so they are running out.

“Until they are able to plant those crops and the three to five months that it takes for the crops to mature and they are able to harvest, that is where there is going to be the gap.”

World Vision has brought in technical experts from Jordan, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka to try and improve PNG’s long term disaster resilience.

Its New Zealand programme manager, Lindsey Ruffolo, says they are carrying out assessments of water and sanitation needs, or WASH, and want to make more than a short term impact.

“We are making sure that the interventions are that are introduced are not just a short term one-off fix but can continue to provide for that community in the longer term.

“So instead of a quick distribution, we are looking at where it is necessary to put piping in for water sources or to drill or produce a shallow well or something along those lines.”

OXFAM New Zealand has also been sending staff into PNG to see how it can step up its work.

Michael Smith says the signs of hunger among the locals are obvious.

“We met a number of families who had to drastically reduce the amount of food that they were eating, because there was none available.

“We met a lady that was now down to eating one piece of kaukau a day, that wasn’t uncommon. There’s a lot of the women who had given up taking three meals a day, to two, perhaps even one meal a day, so that their children have enough to eat.”

Another World Vision worker, just back from Tanna Island in Vanuatu, says the food and water shortage there is a very clear problem.

Vegetable gardens on Tanna were badly affected by the cyclone in March and had not recovered when the drought began.

Dominica Leonard says Tanna is facing a bleak time with water tank levels are now very low and there is little food production.

“I went in the middle of what’s known as mango season when there should be mangoes everywhere and there were none at all. The cyclone ripped those out, there were no bananas in the trees, and coconuts are four times the normal price.”

Leonard says the food shortages in Tanna could go on for another year.

“What they need at the moment is food and water. Medical supplies are also important. There are a lot of clinics that I visited that were noting a large increase in cases of water borne diseases, such as diarrhoea and malnutrition, and some of those stocks are available but some need to be supplied, and so that is where we really need the public support to provide that.”

In other parts of the Pacific, Tonga and Fiji, recent rain has eased concerns.