Reports from Child Fund on the 8th of May suggest that Papua New Guinea does not have a suitable emergency response plan to support their citizens in the wake of natural disasters. This comes after thousands began contacting counselling services and family violence helplines for humanitarian aid and support.
On the 26th of February 2018 a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Southern Highland province of Papua New Guinea, affecting 544,000 people across five provinces with 270,000 requiring immediate assistance, according to Relief Web. The earthquake killed 30 people and injured over 300. The huge number of affected people and damage across the region resulted in a state of emergency to be declared; enacting 200 million dollars for relief operations and the Emergency Disaster Restoration Team was created, along with a four-year restoration plan. Support also came from Unites States along with Australia and New Zealand who are working alongside the United Nations and Red Cross.
ReliefWeb reported on the 11th of March that they were aiming the response at the worst affected communities of Southern Highlands provinces. But many places have proved difficult to supply because the areas are so remote, roads are blocked, and villages have been damaged including healthcare centers; airlifting is also costly leaving some communities with limited information and inadequate supplies. In some areas tribal tension has exacerbated this issue, and in Tari humanitarian aid was stopped due to the ongoing violence. There are informal camps providing housing to some of those displaced, but the water pollution and sanitation are a problem. There have also been 4 ongoing outbreaks according to World Health Organisation of Dengue fever, Malaria, Pertussis and Measles.
Sally Beadle of the Port Moreseby Child Fund helpline manager; said people began using the 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain, a Child Fund Hotline, which received over 2,000 calls, seeking disaster advice and humanitarian aid since the earthquake. She stated, “we see that many people who access the hotline probably have no access to any other face-to-face service,” suggesting people are not informed of what to do in a state of emergency, and are desperate for help or not receiving adequate aid. The ReliefWeb Displacement tracking team on the 20th of April found that isolated areas such as Timu, Lau, Levani are in urgent need of food rations, and other displaced people need shelter, food, cooking utensils, and water. This suggests that the Papua New Guinea natural disaster response plan is not suitable for the environment that Papua New Guinea supports and the vulnerability of villages and people during earthquakes.
The support given to Papua New Guinea in the form of Humanitarian aid after the February earthquake has been global. But it was evident after the government had to enact a policy in late March that they were not prepared for the damage or response needed for such a big earthquake. Citizens in isolated areas could have been better prepared if they had more education about preparing for disasters, and this disconnection between the rural and urban areas has caused people to panic and feel anxious in highland areas. The tribal tensions were avoidable, if they had been better informed that the government would be able to help them, and their tensions should not disregard their need for food and water supplies, restricting this will exacerbate their problems. Papua New Guinea needs a response plan that is effective for isolated communities, this could include organising Earthquake phone helplines, which can provide information and connect people with aid supplies, or response marshals going into isolated areas to talk to peoples and report on the damage and their needs. If some new responses are not met the distribution process of aid will continue to be hindered, leaving thousands of citizens vulnerable to starvation, and disease, threatening their lives and well-being.
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