By Lillian Sopera Keneqa – EMTV News, Port Moresby
According to the United Nations, Papua New Guinea is a very high risk country when it comes to disasters. The country is ranked as one of the top 10 most exposed countries in the world for environment disasters.
The National Disaster Center, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Emergency Management Australia (EMA) conducted a workshop recently which gave stakeholders a chance to discuss PNG’s current status and ability in managing disasters.
Over 10 different key stakeholders from the government, private sector, faith based organisations, NGOs, civil society groups and development partners gathered to discuss the current PNG disaster management system through input to the action plan for the national disaster risk reduction framework 2017 to 2030.
The workshop aimed to develop a shared understanding of PNG hazards and disaster related risks, good practice in disaster risk management including key priorities in the PNG risk reduction framework, the mid-term development plan priorities and understand the SWOT for the PNG disaster risk management system disaster including identifying improvements.
EMA Assistant Secretary, Crisis Management, Joe Buffone, said, “There are positive aspects of that system but, it’s about how we can get the best out of that system within the resources that are available and how we can work very closely with other partners.”
As the workshop was being held, real disasters were occurring in numbers. Mt. Ulawun in West New Britain province erupted in Biella sending ashes as far as Kimbe town displacing over 3000 people. Although it has subsided a day after the workshop, and just as the National Disaster Centre was in the process of sending out aid to those at Biella, the Manam Volcano in Madang Province erupted. This means more families have lost their homes, their gardens, and food. As the rain continues, different provinces face flooding threats.
Senior Climate Advisor, Edward Vrkic, said “Clearly what we know is we are starting to see effects of climate change which is making those disasters worse, intense or it’s making recovery time harder for populations.”
He added, “Often we forget the importance of preparedness. There is always a focus on response and the effects of humanitarian response.”
Information and Knowledge Management Expert, Jutta May, explained what a disaster is and clarified that disasters are not natural. Ms. May said, “… a disaster is essentially the impact an event has on the society, and the impact is a loss of income, economic loss, the loss of life, the number of people affected.” She added, “Disasters are not natural. We have natural hazards.”
Throughout the duration of the workshop, individuals had a chance to discuss, contribute ideas, give feedback and ask questions to collaboratively input into action plan for the National disaster risk reduction framework.
Mr. Buffone said, “Our mission in disaster management regardless of what role we play is to reduce harm and suffering with the people who are affected by the emergencies and understanding what those impacts are, we can mobilize the system, whether it be in prevention…preparedness…response… recovery… or longer term recovery, we should always focus on reducing harm…”
From discussions, it was evident that communication continues to be a big barrier to response time in line with the emergency response mechanisms set. With what was gathered and shared, the National Disaster Centre and stakeholders will work to improve the systems, within their means as well as, looking into better preparedness mechanisms.