Tribal mistrust hampers PNG drought response

7:17 am on 15 September 2015

A disaster assessor in Papua New Guinea says inter-tribal enmities in the drought-stricken Highlands region are preventing victims from migrating to other areas for help.

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea.

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

The Highlands region has been experiencing severe frosts and the worst drought in at least eighteen years.

Matthew Kanua has been contracted by the United Church to assess the impact of the conditions in its church communities.

Mr Kanua says staple crops have almost been completely destroyed and in the lower valleys most creeks have completely dried up.

He says efforts by Highlanders to adapt to the conditions, such as migrating to lower altitudes as they would traditionally do, are hampered by lingering mistrust between villages, as a result of tribal conflicts in 2012.

"This time around they can't move because they're surrounded by all their enemy tribes. So when I asked a man in Tari - 'If you want a lift I can take you back to Yahoma' and they said 'no we can't take a lift because we've got enemy tribes along the way and if they see us, we might have a fight and we'll get you in to trouble."

Matthew Kanua has been assessing in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces and is on his way to Enga.