“In Papua New Guinea we have just witnessed the worst impacts of climate change.
“Rising sea levels and tidal surges that are taking place in many parts of our country, we have just had a seven-month long devastating drought and frost, as well as extreme storms.
“Already our people in our coastal villages are becoming refugees and are resettling on the mainland.” [I.E. The Carteret Island]
“We have had drought that has destroyed crops has leaving many of our communities without food.
“But we have been able to manage those issues by ourselves…” (PNG) -Prime Minister O’Neil
Here is the situation:
Papua New Guniea has been experiencing a prolonged dry spell since May of 2015. On August 7, 2015 The National Weather Service (NWS) declared that Papua New Guniea will be experiencing a severe El Nino event, which was forecasted to continue for 8–10 months with reduced rainfall in all parts of the country. This is expected to be worse than the 1997/98 drought. It has been estimated that approximately 2 million people will be effected with severity varying from place to place. The NDC’s summary updates revealed that almost all of the Highlands Provinces are experiencing Category 3 and 4 while some on Category 5 droughts on the Government’s drought scale. These categories indicate that there’s no food in gardens, only famine foods (ferns, unripe bananas, bitter yams) are being eaten, and water is only available at distance. (ReliefWeb)
The normal rainfall usually expected in November is now not expected until first half of 2016. This is overlapping with the dry season which usually occurs between May and October. Even more concerns have been rising that the severe food insecurity could potentially result in the displacement of a large number of affected people, leading to peace disturbances, widespread inter-tribal conflicts over limited resources and an increase in incidents of gender-based violence. There’s also increasing reports of babies and elderly people becoming ill as a result of the severe drought. (ReliefWeb)
As a result, the Government has activated the National Emergency Centre and the National Disaster Response Committee has made funds as well as relief supplies available. Delivery of relief supplies will be coordinated by the National Disaster Centre (NDC) and the Defense Force. (EPoA)
“That is probably one reason why we have not had the international attention about the worst drought we have ever experienced in Papua New Guinea. “
“We have been able to manage it because of our ability to engage with our communities, and our Government’s commitment to making sure that we feed our people over that period of time.”
Admittedly, to say this is such a severe drought, I can agree that it has gotten very little international attention. Currently, PNG has been independently managing the drought response through its new disaster. One article stated that they were not accepting outside help with food delivery. On this, Prime Minister O’Neil stated, “The Australian Government has not offered the Papua New Guinea government any help, we have not requested [it], it’s entirely up to them,”
“We are not going to go hand-in-cap every time we’re in trouble. We need to manage issues ourselves.
“It is not about pride, it is about making sure that our people are relying on each other and relying on themselves.”
Unsurprisingly, this has received much criticism and critique. Concerns have been made that released funds to districts have not been targeted to the most affected communities. Some areas have reported not receiving timely relief, some such as the Kanma village, report having not received any aid and that they are starving feeling as if the government forgot about them. The Government acknowledged difficulties in distributing supplies from regional centres.
In October, the Australian Government pledged $9 million to drought aid in the Pacific, $5 million of which went to programs in PNG. The article Author wrote, “The money was for coordination, mapping and resilience programs, not for the delivery of relief supplies” (Tlozek)
There is a lot to be analyzed about this situation. Is it important to keep pride? When should you give pride up? Does pride mean something different to developing countries such as PNG?
I believe Prime Minister O’Neil’s point is valid, and I applaud him in ways for wanting to independently handle this situation. The analysis is complex. I encourage and would love for all counties to be able to handle situations independently like this. However, when resources are scarce and delivery is inadequate with many people starving, becoming sick, and dying it is easy to see the situation as the Prime Minster being to prideful. We speak of the blindness of pride, and the stubborn act of doing everything alone and not asking for assistance when it’s needed. However, we see the desire to dictate mediation from the article’s author, Eric Tlozek, who states what the money should be used for.
It’s unfortunate, though, I get it. Sometimes, all you have left is your pride, when that happens, you have to hold on to it. I want to stress, that pride, in short, produces perseverance.
With any luck the government could be able to handle this situation on it’s own. If not, hopefully, they can receive assistance that does not compromise their integrity. Regardless, how these situations are handled and its result, will breed extraordinary resilience of communities in PNG in coming times, especially as their heightened risk of disruption as a result of climate change.
Meteorologists are still cautious to not link the drought to climate change, but while wide-ranging temperature records for the Highlands don’t exist, some studies report they are one degree hotter than 30 years ago. Manager of Climate Monitoring at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, Karl Braganza, compellingly states that the glaciers around Puncak Jaya in West Papua (a mountain range that runs from the east to the west across the island of New Guinea) are disappearing rapidly, presenting a strong indication of warming in the PNG Highlands (Stuff). These symptoms can’t be ignored. In the end…
“We must make sure that these communities and their ways of life, is protected.
… More about Papua New Guinea in next post.
*Italicized words are of Prime Minister O’Neil
“Environmental Risks Highlighted by PM O’Neill in Australia.” Papua New Guinea Today. PNG, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. < http://news.pngfacts.com/2016/03/environmental-risks-highlighted-by-pm.html>
“Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) Papua New Guinea: Drought.” ReliefWeb (n.d.): n. pag. Ifrc.org. ReliefWeb, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/MDRPG005dref.pdf>.
“Papua New Guinea’s Food Bowl Is All but Empty as Drought Affects 2 Million People.” Stuff.co.nz. N.p., 22 Feb. 2016. Web. <http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/south-pacific/76854432/papua-new-guineas-food-bowl-is-all-but-empty-as-drought-affects-2-million-people>.
Tlozek, Eric. “PNG PM Rejects Reports of Widespread Deaths Due to Drought.” ABC News. N.p., 03 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-03/png-peter-oneill-rejects-reports-widespread-deaths-severe-dought/7219006>.