Emergency News Papua New Guinea

PNG’s food crisis among unreported humanitarian disasters of 2016

"From natural disasters to climate-related shocks, from conflict and displacement to persecution and marginalization; crises come in all forms and affect many places, some of which we never hear about." (CARE International)

In 2015, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported about a million people in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea alone were affected by drought and frost brought about by the El Nino weather system, while an estimated total of 2 million people were affected nationwide according to PNG’s National Disaster Center.

Sweet potato (kaukau) affected by frost.

The effects of this disaster was evident in the environment affecting the food, and agriculture system of the country crippling communities with food shortages and hunger.

Reports confirmed 24 deaths according to Chimbu’s Provincial Disaster Center (PDC) as a result of prolonged drought in the Highlands region.

In recent international media reports, criticisms have been made of the poorly presented situation of some of the world’s most serious disasters that did not get the type of response and attention it should have been given.

Papua New Guinea found itself among the Top 10 unreported Humanitarian Crises for 2016 in a report published by CARE International that featured natural, and manmade disasters that received the least media attention in 2016.

“Media attention and fundraising for humanitarian causes are closely intertwined. Watching people suffering on TV prompts many of us to engage and donate – this is widely known as ‘the CNN effect’. Journalists need independent access to report from the ground,” the report stated.

To contain similar issues from arising, CARE International has proposed six main points to consider for change:

  1. World leaders to act and end conflicts
  2. Funding for humanitarian needs; adequate support needs to be shown by governments to close the gap between needs, and available funds.
  3. Respect for International Humanitarian Law calling for attacks against aid workers and civilians to stop.
  4. Stronger local partnerships
  5. Engaging women – agents of change in times of crisis
  6. Media tenacity; aid organisations must ensure resources to deliver humanitarian aid to people even when no TV cameras are present to broadcast their plight

The effects of the El Nino affected many communities causing droughts and frosts in what was stated as the worst the country has experienced in 40 years.

Many communities affected have been given assistance from organisations such as the World Food Programme, IOM and CARE International, and are gradually on their way to recovery with communities receiving agricultural training to become more resilient to future climatic shocks and to recover their farming activities.

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Drought Map Highlights Places affected by El Nino

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