PNG drought impact expected to worsen

8:43 am on 21 August 2015

The drought in Papua New Guinea is expected to linger for several more months as efforts get underway to help hundreds of thousands of people in the Highlands facing food shortages.

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea.

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Many parts of Enga, Southern, and Western Highlands provinces have been affected by frost which have laid waste to vegetable gardens, especially critical foods such as sweet potato.

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Photo: 123RF

Drought is also a factor across all the Highlands provinces with some areas not seeing rain for more than two months.

Care International PNG, which is preparing to get relief to the affected areas, says long term planning is needed.

Its assistant country director, Blossum Gilmour, who is based in Goroka in Eastern Highlands, says relief agencies are working with the PNG government to get proper assessments of people's needs.

"There was a meeting of the National Disaster Team down in Port Moresby and they are planning to do assessments in the areas that have been affected so far, in the near future to assess the extent of the current need. But also to look at forward planning and how can we plan to meet the needs that are going to develop over the coming months."

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea's parliamentary opposition says the government should delay anniversary celebrations and direct funds to help the victims of the drought and frosts in the Highlands.

The Government this week allocated $US8.7 million dollars for the 40th anniversary celebrations in 4 weeks, to be divided among the 20 provinces and their MPs for gala events .

But the Opposition Leader, Don Polye, says starvation is looming in the Highlands and there cannot be celebrating.

Papua New Guinea Opposition Leader, Don Polye

Papua New Guinea Opposition Leader, Don Polye Photo: Supplied

He is urging the government to defer the celebrations until the end of the year to allow the victims to recover.

He says the celebration grant would be better spent by diverting it into providing relief supplies.