by Neville Choi – EM TV News, Port Moresby
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has called on everyone to work together to withstand developing drought conditions affecting communities across the country.
In a statement released today, Mr O’Neill called on government, businesses and communities across the country to work together to face the frost and drought conditions, which could reach their peak in the first quarter of next year.
“This drought has the potential to be worse than 1997 and 1998. For several months the national government has been preparing for the possibility of an extended drought with related frost, made worse due to the effects of climate change.
“The immediate priority of the government is the health and safety of people in areas affected by extreme weather. As such, the government has initiated a program that is delivering relief to affected communities and monitoring is underway in areas that are at risk,” the PM said.
Current figures from the now activated National Disaster Response Committee and Operations Centre, show that 1,842,000 people have been affected by this extreme weather, of whom 1,303,000 are classed as being in the most risky Category 4 drought areas.
“High altitude areas in the five Highlands provinces, and certain parts of Garaina and Waria in Morobe province, and Goilala in Central province have also experienced frost destroying their food gardens.
“As an immediate response, the national government is delivering food and water to affected areas, as well as health care support. Where appropriate, schools are being directed to reduce their operating hours, or to temporarily close,” says Prime Minister O’Neill.
He explained that the government is providing coordination and delivery of emergency relief supplies, primarily through the National Disaster Centre, and the Defence Force, as well as other relevant agencies.
“Provincial and local level government agencies have a very important role to play in the delivery of relief supplies, but they must also be active in helping people in their communities to take action before droughts intensify.
“Provincial Disaster Centres need to be proactive, get out in their communities and identify risks and areas where response is needed.
“It is critical that relevant government agencies and the National Disaster Centre work together to ensure the impact of the disaster is reduced and many lives will be saved,” he said.
He also called on business, to play a leading role in their communities.
“I call on businesses, large and small, to be proactive in their communities.
“Where businesses have s or connections that will help people prepare for or respond to extreme weather, I ask businesses to help out.
“Your customers will reward you with their support in the long run.”