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Reported drought deaths jumps to 24

Thursday 3 September 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT MORESBY – There are reports from Chimbu Province in Papua New Guinea that 24 people have now died as a result of the severe drought hitting the Highlands.

The Chimbu provincial disaster co-ordinator, Michael Ire Appa, says he understands the deaths – which are yet to be officially confirmed – are due to a lack of food and poisoned water.

He says the death toll could go higher.

“It’s a bit hard to confirm but I think it’s positive because the drought has been here for almost three months now and in areas that were affected by the drought, there’s a serious food shortage, including water, and some of the districts have not report, so there my be more than that.”

Michael Ire Appa says up to 80,000 people are in immediate need in his province with thousands also threatened by the drought.

He says about five tons of rice and other food aid is sitting in Kundiawa because the province lacks the logistical support to move it to the remote areas where the problems are most severe.

Meanwhile, National Disaster teams have been assessing which areas are the worst-affected by the drought.

Some districts of the Highlands region are experiencing a Category 5 level disaster which will officially be declared this week, according to the Post-Courier.

National Disaster Committee chairman Dixon Guina said yesterday that the final assessment report from the Highlands had been received and short-term and long-term plans were being drawn up.

Guina said that while this was going on, relief supplies are now reaching the pockets of the affected districts that are going through Category 5 level disaster.

Category 5 is the worst affected and there is a threat some of the provinces are now moving towards that category.

Weather experts have predicted that there will be little to no rainfall in the next six months while temperatures in high altitudes susceptible to frost will drop by two degrees.

Guina said that the 24 deaths reported in Chimbu have still not been confirmed and officers are still investigating whether they are disaster-related deaths.

Guina said he has not received the final assessment reports from the other three regions, New Guinea Islands, Momase and Southern.

“We have a fair idea of how much we need and how much damage had been done in the Highlands region only but not the whole country,” he added.

The National Disaster Office says Australia may be asked to provide military air support and if the need arises to deploy supplies to these areas.

United Nations agencies are also preparing to respond to the impact of the extreme weather which disaster officials say is affecting one quarter of PNG’s population.