by Tokana Hasavi Jr – EM TV News, Port Moresby
In Vanuatu, particularly on the island of Tanna, young children are the most prone to the extreme dryness from the El Nino that has also impacted other Melanesian countries.
The impact in Vanuatu is made worse by the destruction caused by category five Cyclone Pam in March this year, with many villages still recovering.
The ABC reported the death of an infant with unconfirmed reports of two other deaths in the north of Tanna Island, where the effects of the drought are most felt.
The El Nino impact comes off the back of Cyclone Pam which devastated Vanuatu in March, causing damage estimated at almost two-thirds of the country’s GDP.
More cyclone activity is expected across the southwest Pacific between November and next year in April, due to the strong El Nino effect, which may worsen the current drought conditions.
Villagers on Tanna, one of the islands worst hit by Cyclone Pam, are bearing much of the brunt.
People are struggling to grow crops, water sources are drying up and people are surviving on government handouts of rice, noodles and tinned fish.
Hospital wards are full of malnourished babies and their distraught mothers.
In PNG, the prime minister’s department says the government has spent almost K13 million on relief supplies and deliveries to the worst-affected areas.
The PNG Government estimates providing ongoing food relief will cost about K175 million for the next six to twelve months.