Up to 695,000 people are now at severe risk of starvation or serious illness, PNG's senior drought coordinator has warned.
The drought assessment is being considered by Australia's overseas aid agency, AusAID on behalf of the PNG government and the information will be released shortly. The assessment so far shows a dramatic increase in the number of people severely affected by the drought. Australian members of the assessment team have estimated that the number affected by the drought will not peak until February. But the coordinator warned that unless there are significant rains before the dry season begins in April the drought could drag on for more than a year.
Reports from the Anglican Church say that the three worst affected areas are the isolated communities in the New Guinea Islands, in Aipo Rongo Diocese and in Milne Bay in Dogura Diocese. Even when the rains come continued support will be needed because of the ongoing food shortages resulting from the current crop failures. The next phase of development must be medium and long term development of additional water sources.
Reports also say that demands are going to outstrip the church's resources as it needs to make fortnightly deliveries. Additional funding would be welcome. The Papua New Guinea Church Partnership (Partnership House, 157 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8XA) and the Anglican Board of Mission - Australia (91 Bathurst St. Sydney, 2000. Australia) are both coordinating relief efforts.